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“Motard”: a Motorcyclist, a Criminal, or a Type of Bike?

“Motard”: a Motorcyclist, a Criminal, or a Type of Bike?

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All languages, English included, have words that seem identical but are in fact slightly different.

French also has these words, and understanding when to use each adds a lot of nuance to your speech and can make you sound much more fluent.

Today, we’ll look at the word “motard,” one way to say “motorcyclist” in French.


What does “motard” mean in French?

The French word “motard” is a masculine noun referring to a person who rides a motorcycle. In most varieties of French, the word is identical to the English word “motorcyclist,” although it also refers to someone who is a bit of an enthusiast. “Motard” can also be used to describe police or military personnel whose form of transportation is a motorcycle. In Quebec French, “motard” is used in a somewhat insulting way to refer to bikers who behave badly or criminally.

What does “motard” mean?

According to authoritative French dictionary LaRousse, the word “motard” is a synonym for “motocycliste.”

Both words are nouns that mean roughly the same thing as “motorcyclist” in English, but there are a few subtle differences.

One of these differences is grammatical. The word “motard” is a masculine noun, while the word “motocycliste” is a feminine noun.

That means “motard” should be used with grammatically masculine articles (“le” or “un”). If you want to use “motard” to refer to a woman, you can use the less common feminine form instead: “motarde.”


Is there a difference between “motard” and “motocycliste”?

As noted above, “motard” and “motocycliste” are more or less synonyms in most varieties of French.

The main difference is that “motocycliste” can be used to anyone who is riding a motorcycle at that point in time. “Motard,” on the other hand, implies that the motorcyclist in question is a little bit motorcycle-obsessed.

In other words, a “motocycliste” might just happen to have a motorcycle becauase it’s the easiest way for them to get to work.

A “motard,” on the other hand, is someone who goes to meet-ups, buys all the latest gear, reads motorcycle magazines, hangs out on hobbyist websites and does other fan-like things.

An equivalent English phrase would be “motorcycle enthusiast” or “motorcycle fan.”


How do you use “motard” in a sentence?

“Motard” is a noun used to describe a person. That means you can use it in any other place where you’d put a noun that refers to somebody.

Just keep in mind that “motard” is masculine. If you want to talk about a female motorcycle fan, you need to make it feminine by putting an e on the end, like this: “motarde.”


“Paul est un motard.” “Paul is a motorcycle enthusiast.”

Pretty straightforward!

“Qui est le motard là-bas?” “C’est Pauline.” “Quois? Pauline?! Elle est une motarde?!”

In this case, the first speaker assumes that the motorcycle fan in question is male, so they use “le motard.” When told that the person is Pauline, they switch to using the feminine “une motarde,” instead.

“Ces motards se disputent toujours pour savoir qui est le plus rapide.” “Those motorcycle fans always argue about who’s fastest.”

In French, plural nouns always take the masculine, even if a group of people contains men and women. That means you’ll always see “motards,” and not “motardes.”

“Motard” and the armed services

Another way “motard” can be used, again according to LaRousse, is to refer to police officers, soldiers and other personnel whose main form of transportation is a motorcycle.

To make this more specific, you can add descriptive words to the end, so that “motard de la police” to the end, so that “motard de la police” would be similar in meaning to the English word “motorcycle cop.”

“Motard” in Quebec French

Speakers of Quebec French will hear a slightly negative nuance to the word “motard,” similar to the difference between “motorcyclist” and “biker” in American English.

Calling someone a “motard” in Canada, then, suggests that the person you’re talking about might be engaged in some criminal or otherwise shady business, like belonging to a biker gang.

Although this meaning is not standard in other varieties of French, the word can be combined with “gangs” to give a definite negative connotation.

For example, this 2017 article from Le Parisien talks about how les gangs de motards are “dans le radar” (on the rader) of the French police.

What’s the deal with “supermotard”?

If you’ve read this post and come across the word “supermotard,” you might think it’s a word used to describe only the most enthusiastic of motorcycle fans.

However, it’s actually a specific type of motorcycle used in supermoto sports.

In supermoto, riders drive their vehicle across three different types of landscape, including jumps and loose dirt. Because it’s so specialized, a specific type of powerful motorcycle is required.

As a result of these “supermotard” and related “hypermotard” style bikes, the word “motard” has also started to leak into English as a way to refer to motorcycles themselves.

All the same, that only holds true in English. In most, if not all, cases, when you’re speaking French the word “motard” is a motorcycle enthusiast rather than the machine they ride.