Liberté, égalité, Beyoncé: Singer added to French dictionary’s latest edition

After winning more Grammys than any other artist, and being considered one of the greatest performers of all time, Beyoncé will now receive her latest honour: a listing in a French dictionary.

The star singer, who recently released her eighth studio album Cowboy Carter, will be included as a proper noun in Petit Larousse Illustré, an encyclopaedic dictionary first published in 1905.

Beyoncé, 42, is one of 40 French and international personalities chosen for the publication’s 2024 update and is listed as an “American singer of R&B and pop”. French rugby union player Antoine Dupont will also be included in the new edition.

The artist is known to be a fan of France and its fashion and culture, with songs such as 2013’s “Partition” including segments in French. She also has taken several holidays in Paris and Cannes with her husband Jay Z and their three children.

Dictionaries tend to represent language as it develops over time, with updates representing current trends and societal events among the language’s speakers. In 2020, for example, the Cambridge Dictionary named “quarantine” as its word of the year.

According to Bernard Cerquiglini, a linguistics professor who advises Petit Larousse Illustré, endorsements in the French dictionary reflect the zeitgeist, the ideas and concepts that are preoccupying society.

Though English-speaking figures are present in the French dictionary, linguistic authorities are slower to embrace other English terms and encourage users to use French alternatives where possible.

Beyoncé (Getty Images for iHeartRadio)
Beyoncé (Getty Images for iHeartRadio)

Speaking to France Info radio, Cerquiglini said that 8 per cent of new entries to the dictionary were English. “Whenever we bring in a common Anglicism, we always recommend a French term,” he explained.

“We are telling people who open the dictionary: ‘If you want, you can speak French.’”

An example of an anglicised word now included in the Petit Larousse Illustré is “fast fashion”, referring to the speedy production of ready-to-wear collections.

Beyoncé’s name comes from the maiden name of her mother, Tina Knowles: Beyincé. In 2020, Knowles explained how the inspiration for her daughter’s moniker came after Knowles’s maiden name was initially misspelt with an “o” instead of an “i”, like the rest of her family.

“I think me and my brother Skip were the only two that had B-E-Y-O-N-C-E,” Knowles said in an episode of the podcast In My Head with Heather Thomson.

“It's interesting – and it shows you the times – because we asked my mother when I was grown. I was like, ‘Why is my [other] brother’s name spelt B-E-Y-I-N-C-E? And my mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’”

You can read The Independent’s five-star review of Cowboy Carter here.