France's lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.
There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly.
It must now be ratified by the Senate in September to become law.
The ban has strong public support but critics point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.
Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has backed the ban as part of a wider debate on French identity but critics say the government is pandering to far-right voters.
The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in a myriad of styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values.
"Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice."
The vote is being closely watched in other countries, the BBC's Christian Fraser reports from the French capital Paris.
Spain and Belgium are debating similar legislation, and with such large-scale immigration in the past 20 or 30 years, identity has become a popular theme across Europe, our correspondent says.
It's interesting that some countries force women to wear the burka (IMO it is oppressive to do so) and now other countries like France will force them NOT to wear one.
Kind of ironic really, stop women being oppressed because of restrictions on what they can wear... by restricting what they can wear.