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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for poilu
Historical Examples
  • Her poilu friends had nearly wrecked his shop for him on that occasion.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • The captain in charge called my attention to a French poilu.

  • Entering the Judgment Hall, the poilu is bewildered by its austerity and splendour.

    A Boswell of Baghdad E. V. Lucas
  • A poilu in steely blue looked at them and saw that they were good.

    Gladiator Philip Wylie
  • Belle was as used to war as the most weather-beaten French poilu.

    The Silent Readers William D. Lewis
  • But, as a poilu, he would have been a traitor to his kind not to grumble.

    The Wasted Generation Owen Johnson
  • When he who leads is simple and high of heart, the poilu always responds.

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

    The Wasted Generation Owen Johnson
  • The French are very appreciative, from the poilu up to the highest officers.

  • A poilu, on the board walk, said to his friend: "This will be a great day for airplanes."

    A Blue Devil of France G. P. Capart
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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