Glossary of the French Revolution

This is a glossary of the French Revolution. It generally does not explicate names of individual people or their political associations; those can be found in List of people associated with the French Revolution.

The terminology routinely used in discussing the French Revolution can be confusing, even daunting. The same political faction may be referred to by different historians (or by the same historian in different contexts) by different names. During much of the revolutionary period, the French used a newly invented calendar that fell into complete disuse after the revolutionary era. Different legislative bodies had rather similar names, not always translated uniformly into English. This article is intended as a central place to clarify these issues. For citations see the articles and also Ballard (2011); Furet (1989) Hanson (2004), Ross (1998) and Scott & Rothaus (1985).

The three estates

The estates of the realm in ancien régime France were:

See also: Fourth Estate, a term with two relevant meanings: on the one hand, the generally unrepresented poor, nominally part of the Third Estate; on the other, the press, as a fourth powerful entity in addition to the three estates of the realm.

Social classes


Governmental structures

In roughly chronological order:

Political groupings

Ancien régime taxes

Months of the French Revolutionary Calendar

Under this calendar, the Year I or "Year 1" began 22 September, 1792 (the date of the official abolition of the monarchy and the nobility).

Events commonly known by their Gregorian dates

Events commonly known by their Revolutionary dates




Cockades (cocardes) were rosettes or ribbons worn as a badge, typically on a hat.

Other countries and armies at this time typically had their own cockades.


Other terms


    Further reading

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