Definition of poilu in English:

poilu

Pronunciation /pwäˈl(y)o͞o/ /pwɑˈl(j)u/

noun

historical, informal
  • An infantry soldier in the French army, especially one who fought in World War I.

    • ‘It coincides with a large number of books and exhibitions about the poilus, as French soldiers in the great war were known.’
    • ‘The French poilus accepted and respected that American icon.’
    • ‘In contrast with the pre-1914 view that the French soldier, with his singular élan, performed best in the attack, they took the doggedness of the poilu in defence at Verdun in 1916 as their guide.’
    • ‘The film even showed Porter in the uniform of the French Foreign Legion, as gritty and gung-ho as a poilu.’
    • ‘This was not the destination of Nevinson's poilus - over 1,000,000 of whom would become casualties in the first five months of the war alone.’
    private soldier, common soldier

Origin

French, literally ‘hairy’, by extension ‘brave’, whiskers being associated with virility.