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[pwah-loo; French pwa-ly] /ˈpwɑ lu; French pwaˈlü/
noun, plural poilus
[pwah-looz; French pwa-ly] /ˈpwɑ luz; French pwaˈlü/ (Show IPA)
a French common soldier.
Origin of poilu
1910-15; < French, in earlier slang: tough individual, tough, brave, literally, hairy, haired; Middle French, Old French pelu (cf. plew) < Vulgar Latin *pilūtus, equivalent to Latin pil(us) hair + Vulgar Latin *-ūtus, for Latin -ātus -ate1 (e > oi by influence of poil hair < Latin pilus) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for poilu
Historical Examples
  • The poilu in horror stepped back a pace, saluted "le grand."

    Wounded and a Prisoner of War Malcolm V. (Malcolm Vivian) Hay
  • Her poilu friends had nearly wrecked his shop for him on that occasion.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • But, as a poilu, he would have been a traitor to his kind not to grumble.

    The Wasted Generation Owen Johnson
  • Belle was as used to war as the most weather-beaten French poilu.

    The Silent Readers William D. Lewis
  • The intention of the poilu who had taken her in his arms and kissed her, had not been more cordial.

  • The poilu, for he still was the soldier, passed on and confronted Von Holwitz.

    The Wasted Generation Owen Johnson
  • Sometimes she spent them in the little dormer-windowed room where the wife of the New York poilu waited for her baby.

  • The French are very appreciative, from the poilu up to the highest officers.

  • A large projectile falls at our side—the poilu is knocked down, giving vent to a raucous cry as he falls.

    A Blue Devil of France G. P. Capart
  • He was dressed in the uniform of a French poilu, but his face was the face of a gypsy.

    Green Eyes Roy J. Snell
British Dictionary definitions for poilu


/ˈpwɑːluː; French pwaly/
an infantryman in the French Army, esp one in the front lines in World War I
Word Origin
C20: from French, literally: hairy (that is, virile), from poil hair, from Latin pilus a hair
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for poilu

French private soldier, 1914, from French poilu, literally "hairy," from poil "hair," not of the head, but of beards, animal coats, etc., from Latin pilus (see pile (n.3)). In 19c. French the adjective had a secondary sense of "strong, brave, courageous" (Balzac).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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