Pin Me

Learning About False Cognates "En Espanol"

written by: lwitkop • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 3/2/2012

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.

  • slide 1 of 3

    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".

  • slide 2 of 3

    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

  • slide 3 of 3

    More Help

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