7 Ways to Say Happy Birthday in French

The day where you learn how to say happy birthday in French is a special one. Unlike some other French expressions, bon anniversaire, or happy birthday in French will almost always be used on special occasions. 

That means that by learning this French phrase, you’ll be able to attend French birthday parties, write a birthday card in French, and so much more! French birthday customs are similar to American ones.

But, there are a few differences that I have noticed since living in France and celebrating with French speakers. So I’m excited to dive into some of the common ways to say happy birthday in French as well as some French birthday customs. 

Towards the bottom of the page you’ll find the French Happy Birthday song with complete French lyrics and English translation!

Happy Birthday in French Expressions 

Bon anniversaire (not bonne anniversaire)

Bon anniversaire is one of the most standard ways to say happy birthday in French. You’ll find this written on birthday cards, balloons, and French birthday cakes. 

Despite this, bon anniversaire is actually a very misspelled phrase. One French study found that 13% of birthday cards contain “bon anniversaire” spelled incorrectly. 

It is usually misspelled as bonne anniversaire. So make sure you keep “bon” in its masculine form and write bon anniversaire

Joyeux anniversaire (en retard)

Similar to bon anniversaire, joyeux anniversaire is another common way French people say happy birthday. While bon anniversaire means “good birthday,” joyeux anniversaire means “joyful birthday” or “happy birthday.”

But what’s the deal with the en retard at the end? Well, that’s what you would add if you’d like to wish someone a belated birthday. 

Joyeux anniversaire en retard and bonne anniversaire en retard both mean happy belated birthday. En retard literally translates to “late.” 

This is another one of those French expressions that French learners and speakers alike will misspell. This is because of a French pronunciation rule called liaison.

Basically, liaison makes it so that if a word ends with a consonant and the next word starts with a vowel, you’ll connect the two sounds together. Because of this, joyeux anniversaire is pronounced more like joyeuz anniversaire. 

So if it sounds like a French speaker is saying “joyeuse anniversaire,” they’re just practicing liaison. 

Meilleurs vœux

Meilleurs vœux means best wishes and is a great French phrase to add to a birthday card. But, it’s definitely not the most common way to wish someone a happy birthday.

This phrase is usually reserved for the new year or around Christmas time

Passez une merveilleuse journée

While this phrase can be used in a few different ways, you can also use it on a birthday card. Passez une merveilleuse journée means “have a wonderful day.”

And since you’ll want to wish your new French friend a happy birthday and a wonderful day, this is a good phrase to have in your toolbelt. 

Pour ton anniversaire

Pour ton anniversaire means “for your birthday.” It’s a French expression that you will likely use to explain what birthday gift you got for someone’s birthday.

For example, you might say, “Pour ton anniversaire, je t’achetais des fleurs.” This means “For your birthday, I bought you flowers.” 

Merveilleux anniversaire

If you’re searching for another birthday greeting, merveilleux anniversaire is a more unique way to say happy birthday. It means “wonderful birthday.”

Je vous souhaite plein de bonheur en cette journée spéciale. 

When writing a card for someone’s special day, this French phrase is a wonderful choice. Je vous souhaite plein de bonheur en cette journée spéciale means “I wish you lots of happiness on this special day.”

French Canadian Happy Birthday Expressions

For the most part, French birthday expressions are pretty similar between France and Canada. But there is one pretty big difference between how they say happy birthday.

Happy Birthday in French Canadian

Instead of saying joyeux anniversaire, the French Canadians say bonne fête. In France, if you’re wishing someone bonne fête, you’re wishing them a happy name day. 

Language specialists aren’t totally sure why happy birthday is translated differently in the two countries.

But, it might be because of the influence of the Catholic religion on Canadian culture. Traditionally, Catholics would celebrate a person on their name day, or the day of the year dedicated to the saint or religious figure they are named after, rather than their birthday. 

But either way, it’s important not to mess up the two ways of saying happy birthday in French! 

Birthday vs. Anniversary

After reading through all of these ways to say happy birthday, you’ve probably seen that anniversaire translates to birthday in French. 

What is interesting about this is that anniversaire also translates to anniversary but only when paired with a prepositional phrase. 

In English, when we say “anniversary” with no context, it means the dating or marriage anniversary. But when you say anniversaire with no context in French it means birthday. 

If you wanted to talk about your marriage anniversary in French, you would have to say “anniversaire de mariage.” Here the prepositional phrase “de mariage” (of marriage) changes the sense from birthday to marriage anniversary.

If you wanted to talk about the anniversary of an important event, like the Normandy landings, you would say “anniversaire du Debarquement.” 

French Birthday Customs

It’s time to celebrate! Not only have you made it through some of the ways to say happy birthday in French, but we’ve made to the most fun part. 

It’s time to learn how to celebrate a birthday in the French culture. As someone who has been to a few French birthday parties, there were a few things that surprised me about French birthday customs.

French Birthday Cake

Starting with the thing that surprised me most: the French birthday cake. Just like in the United States, the French celebrate their birthdays with a birthday cake. 

But, it looks a little different most of the time. Some people will just get a cake from the boulangerie or the grocery store. 

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Common cakes you find here will look more like a versaillais, un fraisier, or boulangerie cakes like these

When people make them at home, they’ll usually make something simpler than the birthday cakes we make in the United States. When I imagine a homemade birthday cake, I imagine a two-layer cake with icing, sprinkles, and candles.

But in France, homemade cakes are usually just cake. Icing is not really as much of a thing in France. 

So for my birthday this year, my friends just made me a simple, one-sheet chocolate cake with candles. And this is very typical. 

Don’t Say Happy Birthday in French Early

Another thing to know about French birthday customs is that it is considered bad luck to wish someone happy birthday before their birthday.

I actually had a kind of awkward situation once where I wished a coworker a happy early birthday. And everyone told me how unlucky that was and I felt a little bad.

So definitely remember to only wish someone happy birthday on the day of their birthday or en retard

Writing a Birthday Card in French

Just like in the United States, writing a birthday card for someone’s birthday is an appreciated gesture. In a French birthday card, you can include a lot of the French phrases included above or write something like this:

Je te souhaite un joyeux anniversaire !

Un an de plus de sagesse, un an de plus d’amitié, un an de plus d’expériences, un an de plus d’amour, un an de plus de vie !

Quelle chance tu as !

J’espère que nous aurons l’occasion de fêter ton anniversaire prochainement.

A bientôt !

Meaning: 

I wish you a happy birthday!

One more year of wisdom, friendship, experiences, love, and life!

How lucky you are!

I hope we will have the chance to celebrate your birthday soon.

See you soon!

French birthday vocabulary and phrases

If you’re going to be attending a French birthday party (une fête d’anniversaire), it would be a great idea to learn some birthday vocabulary!

General birthday words

Birthday party vocabulary

  • un ballon balloon
  • une bougie candle
  • le papier cadeau gift wrapping paper
  • une fête d’anniversaire – birthday party
  • un(e) invité(e) guest
  • la surprise surprise

Useful birthday phrases

  • C’est quand ton/votre anniversaire? When is your birthday?
  • Mon anniversaire est le huit mai. My birthday is on May 8th.
  • Mon anniversaire est demain. My birthday is tomorrow.
  • Je te/vous souhaite un bon anniversaire! I wish you a happy birthday!
  • Célébrer une fête d’anniversaire to celebrate a birthday

Useful verbs

  • fêter un anniversaire – to celebrate a birthday
  • faire une fête to have a party
  • souffler les bougies to below out the candles
  • Inviter des amis to invite friends
  • faire un vœu to make a wish
  • offrir un cadeau to give a gift
  • envoyer une invitation to send an invitation
  • faire un gâteau to bake a cake

Talking about age

  • Quel âge as-tu? How old are you? (infomral)
  • Quel âge avez-vous? How old are you (formal)
  • J’ai _ ans. I am _ years-old.
  • Fêter ses vingt ans. To turn 20 years-old.

This page covers age in detail and this page covers the numbers you’ll need to talk about age.

French Happy Birthday song: French lyrics & English translation

Here are French lyrics and English translation to the French happy birthday song.

In the chorus of the song, two expressions for “Happy Birthday” are used: Joyeux anniversaire and Heureux anniversaire. The adjective joyeux translates to joyous and heureux translates to happy.

The meaning of voeux is wishes. The expression meilleurs vœux means “best wishes!”.

The line, “Se sont tous réunis” translates to “are all gathered together”. The verb se réunir means to get or gather together.

Joyeux anniversaire
Heureux anniversaire
Tous nos voeux sont sincères
Pour ton anniversaire

Joyous birthday
Happy birthday
All of our wishes are sincere
For your birthday

Tes amis aujourd’hui
Se sont tous réunis
Ton bonheur on l’espère
Pour ton anniversaire

Your friends today
Are all gathered together
Your happiness we hope
For your birthday

Joyeux anniversaire
Heureux anniversaire
Tous nos voeux sont sincères
Pour ton anniversaire

Joyous birthday
Happy birthday
All of our wishes are sincere
For your birthday

Anniversaire, anniversaire
Joyeux anniversaire

Birthday, birthday
Happy birthday

Listen to the French happy birthday song on YouTube with French lyrics and English translation.


Listen to the French happy birthday song on Spotify:

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About Calli Zarpas

Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in her teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-language content for French Learner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others on InstagramTiktok, and her blog, Wooish.

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