A Useful Checklist of fifty Frequent False Cognates in Spanish

Chances are you’ll know them as false cognates, los falso amigos, and even les fake amis, a time period coined in 1928 that turned so well-known we nonetheless use it in English in the present day. False cognates in Spanish look pleasant however transform deceiving. They lure you in as a result of they appear or sound like a phrase in English so that you change into overly assured about utilizing them. Ultimately, they backfire on you as a result of the which means is totally completely different than anticipated.

To keep away from being duped by these phrases, spend a while studying about false cognates in Spanish. By nailing down the essential ideas and customary false cognates, you’ll keep away from a bit embarrassment (and perhaps some laughs!) and as an alternative empower your self with actual information. Whereas self-study can take you far by way of language studying, one of the best ways to study Spanish is all the time with a program designed particularly to maximise your innate language expertise. 

Understanding cognates

Technically talking, a cognate is a phrase that has the identical etymology as one other phrase in a unique language. “Etymology” is solely a classy phrase for “origin,” and on this case, a linguistic origin. 

Typically these phrases with the identical origin even have the identical which means. An instance of this could be pan, which in Spanish means “bread,” or ache, which suggests the identical factor in French. The pronunciation and which means are almost similar, and their etymology is from the Latin phrase panis. Nonetheless, not all comparable phrases in two completely different languages have the identical which means.

There are many Spanish cognate phrases that may show you how to to study the language extra simply, however studying about false cognates helps you keep away from the belief that each one phrases that look comparable really imply the identical factor.

What’s a false cognate?

A false cognate is a phrase that appears or seems like one other phrase in a unique language, however it has a really completely different which means. As an example, grosería in Spanish seems to be like “grocery,” proper? It really means “vulgarity,” “dangerous phrase,” or “insult.” It is a widespread false cognate in Spanish that would trigger some confusion if it’s used out of context. Generally false cognates are known as “false pals.” Whereas there are some variations about whether or not the which means could possibly be comparable, these phrases are typically used interchangeably. 

By the way in which, there are additionally English-to-Spanish false cognates equivalent to character (which pertains to personaje not carácter), intoxicate (which pertains to embriagar not intoxicar), and commodity (which pertains to mercancía not comodidad). The problem of false cognates is that they work each methods between language pairs. Usually, individuals are fairly understanding if you’re studying a brand new language, so that you’ll study rapidly from any errors you would possibly make.

For a Spanish speaker, listening to a sentence like this can be momentarily complicated. As a substitute of imagining a titillating efficiency by a film character, they may consider a persona that toxins:

  • I turned intoxicated by his character. = Me embriagaba su personaje.

Why false cognates in Spanish are essential to know

You’ll need to learn about falsos amigos (false pals) so that you simply don’t take any falsos pasos (false steps) and make an embarrassing mistake in your writing or your speech. Though many Spanish audio system shall be forgiving when you put your foot in your mouth if you use a false cognate, you most likely need to keep away from these errors to be higher understood. If you happen to rattle off a string of phrases with out actually realizing their which means, you would possibly come off sounding like Mexican comic Mario Cantinflas, well-known for his nonsensical dialogue.

What are among the most egregious Spanish false cognates?

Talking of embarrassment, don’t make the widespread error of considering embarazado means simply that. It really means “pregnant.” If you happen to use this phrase incorrectly, you would possibly change into “pregnant” with embarrassment.

You additionally need to keep away from saying you might be excitado until you’re along with your romantic associate, as a result of it has sure connotations you possible didn’t imply. Use emocionado as an alternative if you need to say you’re enthusiastic about one thing like an upcoming live performance.

  • ¡Estoy muy emocionado porque voy a ver a Julieta Venegas en concierto! = I’m actually excited as a result of I’m going to see Julieta Venegas in live performance!

Some false cognates look precisely like phrases in English however carry an accent. Spanish accent marks can fully change the which means of a phrase. So whereas mamá means “mother,” mama (with the primary syllable careworn) means both “breast” or “to nurse” as a verb.

If you happen to’ve had a disagreement along with your boyfriend or girlfriend, don’t be tempted to say you had an argumento. You had a desacuerdo. Argumento might be translated as “argument,” however solely within the sense of constructing rational causes to defend a thesis or perspective.

  • Mi novio y yo tuvimos un desacuerdo anoche, pero ya nos hicimos las paces. = My boyfriend and I had a disagreement final night time, however we’ve made up. 
  • La profesora presentó un brillante argumento para apoyar la tesis de su investigación. = The professor introduced a brillant argument to help the thesis of her analysis.

An inventory of fifty false cognates in Spanish

Now that you simply’ve discovered some about false cognates in Spanish, let’s check out this in depth record of widespread phrases that would simply be confused. We’ve included the false cognate, the precise which means, the phrase you most likely wished to make use of, together with its which means.

Some phrases which have a number of meanings have additionally been included. Take notice that particular meanings might range from nation to nation.

False cognateEnglish Which meansPossible Phrase AlternativeEnglish Which means
precisepresentverdaderotrue, precise
anciano, elelderantiguohistoric
argumentoargument (see rationalization above)el desacuerdo, la discusióndisagreement
americano, elany inhabitant of North or South Americael norteamericanoNorth American from the US
aplicación, laeffort, pc softwarela solicitud(job) software
arma, elweaponel brazoarm
asistirto attendayudarto assist
campo, elcountrysideacamparto camp
carpeta, lafolderel alfombracarpet
colegio, elboarding faculty, faculty typically, faculty (generally)la universidadcollege, faculty
complexión, lastructurela tezcomplexion 
compromiso, eldedication, appointmentel acuerdo, el arregloto return to an settlement, association
constipadocongested (as with a chilly)estreñidoconstipated
contestarto replyrefutarto contest
desierto, eldesertel postredessert
discusión, ladisagreement, debatela plática, la conversacióndialogue, discuss
diversión, laenjoyableel desvíorerouting
educadowell manneredculto, preparadoeducated
enviarto shiptener envidiato envy
éxitosuccessla salidaexit
fábrica, lamanufacturing facilityla telamaterial
facilidad, laeasela instalaciónfacility
facultad, latutorial divisionel private docenteschool
grandehuge, tall, nicemajestuoso, impresionante, and so on.grand
grapa, lastaplela uvagrape
hindúEast Indian (popularly)el indio, de la India (most well-liked time period)from India (East Indian)
injuriainsultla herida, la lesiónminimize, lesion
introducirto introduce (a subject), to information, insert, enter, set uppresentarto introduce (two individuals to one another)
lectura, lastudyingla conferencialecture, convention
letra, lalyrics, single letter of the alphabetla cartaletter
librería, lae-book retailerla bibliotecalibrary
mama, labreastla mamámother
mano, lahandhombreman
mayorbigger, olderalcaldemayor
pan, elbreadla cacerolapan
pariente, elrelativelos padresmother and father
pie, elfootel paypie
pretenderto mean, aspire tofingirto faux
púrpuradeep reddish purplemorado/violetapurple
realizarto hold out, dodarse cuenta deto appreciate
pink, lainternetrojopink
renta, larevenue, hirealquilerhire (as noun)
removerto combinequitarto take away
restarto subtractdescansarto relaxation
sentencia, lasentence (in juridical sense)la oraciónsentence (in grammatical sense)
sopa, lasoup, ready grain, combineel jabóncleaning soap
soportarto resist, put up withapoyarto help
vagónrailway automobileel carritowagon, cart

Discover ways to pronounce cognates and false cognates with Rosetta Stone

Whereas there may be fairly a couple of Spanish false cognates, Spanish shouldn’t be exhausting to study for English audio system, with one motive being exactly the quite a few cognates it shares with English. English shares many comparable components of speech with Spanish, a few of that are positioned in the identical sentence place in each languages.

Whether or not we’re speaking about cognates or false cognates in Spanish, you’ll need to ensure your pronunciation is on level. TruAccent might help you learn to pronounce these familiar-looking phrases accurately so that you might be higher understood in Spanish and sound extra like a local. 

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