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Learning About False Cognates "En Espanol"

By lwitkop

False cognates in Spanish can lead language learners down a path of misunderstanding and garbled communication. Learn the proper meaning of these words that only appear to have direct English equivalents. A vocabulary download is available.

A Brief Definition

False cognates are words that appear to be similar in two languages but actually have completely different meanings. For instance, English speakers encountering the Spanish infinitive asistir for the first time would likely assume it means "to assist". However, the verb actually means "to attend". In Spanish, false cognates are often referred to as falsos amigos or "false friends".

Vocabulary List

All false cognates are paired with the correct translation of the word to which they appear similar.

la advertencia – warning

advertisement – el anuncio

asistir – to attend

to assist – ayudar

la boda – wedding

body – el cuerpo

el campo – field or country

camp - el campamento

to camp - acampar

la carpeta – folder

carpet – la alfombra

el colegio – school or high school

college – la universidad

colorado(a) – red

colored – de color

contestar – to answer

contest (competition) – el concurso, la competencia or la competición

contest (to speak out against) – refutar or protestar contra

la desgracia – misfortune

disgrace (dishonor) – la deshonra

embarazada – pregnant

to be embarrassed – tener vergüenza / darse vergüenza

emocionante – exciting or thrilling

emotional – emocional or afectivo

el éxito – success

exit – la salida

la fábrica – factory

fabric – la tela

el fútbol – soccer

football – el fútbol americano

el idioma – language

idiom – el modismo

largo(a) – long

large – grande

la lectura – reading

lecture – la conferencia (formal presentation), la charla (informal talk), or la clase (class period)

la librería – bookstore

library – la biblioteca

mayor – main, major, older, larger (la mayor parte de/the majority of)

mayor (government official) – el alcalde/la alcaldesa

el nombre – name or noun

number – el número

once – eleven

once (a single time) – una vez

el pan – bread

pan – la cacerola, la olla, el cazo or la sartén

los parientes – relatives

parents –los padres

el pie – foot

pie – el pastel

presente – present (in a place or current time)

present (gift) – el regalo

la receta – recipe

receipt – el recibo

recordar – to remember

to record – grabar

la ropa – clothing

rope – la cuerda

sano(a) – safe

sane – cuerdo(a)

la sopa – soup

soap – el jabón

suceder – to happen or to occur

to succeed - tener éxito (to have success) or lograr (to achieve)

el vaso – drinking glass

vase – el florero or el jarrón

More Help

For easy reference, download the accompanying vocabulary list of false cognates in Spanish.