[ pwah-loo; French pwa-ly ]

noun,plural poi·lus [pwah-looz; French pwa-ly]. /ˈpwɑ luz; French pwaˈlü/.
  1. 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)

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How to use poilu in a sentence

  • For the poilus, coming home to find their women folks shabby, said it was gayer at the front.

    Paris Vistas | Helen Davenport Gibbons
  • Ruth got over being worried by amatory bouts with the wounded poilus after a while.

  • Some of the convalescents would be removed as soon as possible so as to make room for newly wounded poilus.

  • And it was dull and dirty and gray and deserted, save for the strolling poilus.

    Life in the War Zone | Gertrude Atherton
  • I love all Americans for what they are doing for our poor poilus.

British Dictionary definitions for poilu


/ (ˈpwɑːluː, French pwaly) /

  1. an infantryman in the French Army, esp one in the front lines in World War I

Origin of poilu

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