French drains are a time proven system for eliminating excess water. The earliest forms of French Drains were simple ditches, pitched from a high area to a lower one and filled with gravel. These were described and popularized by Henry French in his book Farm Drainage. Today, specialized drain tiles are designed with perforations or holes to admit water. To prevent clogging gravel is placed around the perimeter of the drain tile to give water a path to the drain tile as well as filter soil particles. With the development of geo-textile fabrics, gravel can now be surrounded with this fabric greatly enhancing its ability to filter soil. A French drain can be covered over with sod after installation, making them less conspicuous.
Over time the term French drain has developed numerous definitions and has been applied to many different products. It has gotten to the point that any piping that is buried in the ground is now called a French drain.