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6.03 French and foreign words and phrases

Write these in italics if they are not considered to have been assimilated into English. A non-English pronunciation often indicates that a word or phrase has not been assimilated. Many such terms occur in legal, political and musical contexts:

  • allegro non troppo
  • caveat emptor
  • laissez-passer
  • mutatis mutandis
  • raison d’état
  • res ipsa loquitur

When French or foreign words or phrases are considered to have been assimilated into English, italics are not used:

  • ad hoc
  • aide-de-camp
  • autobahn
  • per capita
  • strudel
  • tsunami

Most dictionaries do not indicate which words or phrases are to be italicized. Among those that do are The Concise Oxford Dictionary, The Random House Dictionary and the Collins dictionaries, but they are not always unanimous. Consult the Concise Oxford but also exercise your own judgment, with due regard for the type of text and intended readership. When in doubt, use roman type.

If an unfamiliar French or foreign term or phrase is used repeatedly in a text, it should be italicized at the first occurrence and accompanied by an explanation. Subsequently, it may be set in roman type.