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i never saw the former before.  is it used occasionally?  

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The distinction is explained here:(I couldn't  vouch for it personally or say how often  banqueroute is used)

http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/banqueroute

Hi Alan, hi george.

“Banqueroute” and “faillite” are completely synonyms.

In French newspapers, the “banqueroute” is rather used concerning a country who is not able to pay his obligations. The word “faillite” is rather used for a firm, a company. However, the second can be used instead of the first.

( Pay attention to the title, please... )

http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2016/07/13/un-an-apres-avoir...

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