False Cognates

Overview

Spanish vocabulary can sometimes be quite simple if you are a native English speakers. There are so many cognates, or words that sound similar in both languages: decidir  - to decide, la aplicación  - application, maravilloso  - marvelous, etc.

However, there are many Spanish words that sound like English words that do not have the same meaning. These are called false cognates, or false friends.

Spanish False CognateActual English DefinitionSpanish Alternative
actual
 
current, at the present momentverdadero  = actual
el nudo
 
knot, joint, nodedesnudo  = nude
la advertencia
 
warning, advice, reminderel anuncio  = advertisement
la agonía
 
death throes, dying momentsla angustia  = agony
americano
 
anyone from North Americaestadounidense  = US American
aplicar
 
to apply a theory or paintsolicitar  = to apply for a job; dirigirse a uno  = to apply oneself
la apología
 
defense, eulogyla disculpa  = apology
la arena
 
sandel anfiteatro  = arena
el argumento
 
reasoning, debatela disputa  = argument (disagreement)
el asesino
 
murderer, killerel asesino pagado  = assassin
la asistencia
 
attendancela ayuda  = assistance
asistir
 
to attendayudar  = to assist
el bachillerato
 
high school or A-level diplomael soltero  = bachelor; la licenciatura  = bachelor’s degree
el billón
 
trillion (US)mil millones  = billion
bizarro
 
valiant, gallant; generousextraño  = bizarre
blanco
 
whitesin adorno  = blank
blindar
 
to shieldcegar  = to blind
el bufete
 
deskel bufé  = buffet
el campo
 
countrysideel campamento  = camp
el cargo
 
post or position; chargela carga  = cargo
la carpeta
 
folderla alfombra  = carpet
la carrera
 
race, journey, course; beamla profesión  = career
la carta
 
letter (document), deed, menuel carrito  = cart; la tarjeta  = card
chocar
 
to crashsofocarse  = to choke
el colegio
 
high schoolla universidad  = college
colorado
 
red, reddishde color  = colored
la complexión
 
constitution, temperamentla tez  = complexion
el compromiso
 
obligation, commitmentla solución intermedia  = compromise
el conductor
 
driverel director  = orchestral conductor; el revisor  = train conductor
la conexión
 
physical or logical connectionla relación  = emotional connection
la constipación
 
cold (illness)el estreñimiento  = constipation
contestar
 
to answercontender  = to contest
conveniente
 
suitablepráctico  = convenient
la copa
 
glass, goblet; trophyla taza  = cup
corresponder
 
to agree with, to matchescribirse  = to correspond (in writing)
la cuestión
 
matter or issue to be resolvedla pregunta  = question
culto
 
cultured, refinedla secta  = cult
el damnificado
 
victimmaldito  = damned
la decepción
 
disappointmentel engaño  = deception
decepcionar
 
to disappointengañar  = to deceive
el delito
 
crimeel placer  = delight
la desgracia
 
misfortune, accidentla deshonra  = disgrace
deshonesto
 
indecent, lewdfraudulento  = dishonest
despertar
 
to wake updesesperado  = desperate
destituido
 
lackingindigente  = destitute
discutir
 
to debate, to arguehablar de  = to discuss
disgusto
 
annoyance, troublela repugnancia  = disgust
echar
 
to throw, to pourresonar  = to echo
la educación
 
upbringingla formación  = education
educado
 
politeculto  = educated
efectivo
 
real, actualeficaz  = effective
el elevador
 
hoistel ascensor  = elevator
embarazada
 
pregnantavergonzado  = embarrassed
emocionante
 
excitingemocional  = emotional
eventual
 
possibledefinitivo  = eventual
excitar
 
to excite (sexually)entusiasmar  = to excite
el éxito
 
successla salida  = exit
la fábrica
 
factoryla tela  = fabric
la facultad
 
mental abilityel profesorado  = faculty (of teachers)
la falta
 
absence, shortage, lackel defecto  = fault (imperfection); la culpa  = fault (guilt)
fastidioso
 
annoying, boringescrupuloso  = fastidious
la firma
 
signaturela empresa  = firm
formal
 
reliable, seriousde etiqueta  = formal
el fútbol
 
soccerel fútbol americano  = football
fútil
 
trivialvano  = futile
grabar
 
to save, to recordasir  = to grab
gracioso
 
funnycortés  = gracious
la grosería
 
rudenessla tienda de comestibles  = grocery store
honesto
 
sincere, decenthonrado  = honest
el humor
 
moodla gracia  = humor
el idioma
 
languageel modismo  = idiom
ignorar
 
to be unaware ofno hacer caso de  = to ignore
la jubilación
 
retirementel júbilo  = jubilation
largo
 
longgrande  = large
la lectura
 
reading, reading materialla conferencia  = lecture
la letra
 
letter of the alphabet; lyrics to a songla carta  = letter
la librería
 
bookstorela biblioteca  = library
la lujuria
 
lustel lujo  = luxury
la mama
 
breastla mamá  = mother
la marca
 
brand, recordla mancha  = mark
la masa
 
doughla misa  = mass (at church)
matar
 
to killunir  = to mate
mayor
 
larger, olderel alcalde  = mayor
molestar
 
to annoyacosar sexualmente  = to molest
el negocio
 
businessla negociación  = negotiation
el nombre
 
name; nounel número  = number
la noticia
 
newsel aviso  = notice
la ocasión
 
opportunity; bargainla vez  = occasion
el oficio
 
trade, function; religious servicela oficina  = office
once
 
elevenuna vez  = once
el pan
 
breadla cacerola  = pan
la papa
 
potatoel papá  = father
el pariente
 
close relativeel padre  = parent
el patrón
 
boss; standardel patrocinador  = patron
el plagio
 
plagiarismla peste  = plague
prácticamente
 
in a practical waycasi  = practically (almost)
el preservativo
 
condomel conservador  = preservative
pretender
 
to claimfingir  = to pretend
procurar
 
to manage (to do something)obtener  = to procure
quitar
 
to take away, to get rid ofdejar  = to quit
raro
 
odd, strangepoco común  = rare
real
 
royalauténtico  = real
realizar
 
to fulfilldarse cuenta de  = to realize
la receta
 
recipe, prescriptionel recibo  = receipt
la recolección
 
harvest, collectionel recuerdo  = recollection
recordar
 
to remembergrabar  = to record
la red
 
network, netrojo  = red
restar
 
to subtractdescansar  = to rest
revolver
 
to turn overel revólver  = revolver
la ropa
 
clothingla cuerda  = rope
el salario
 
hourly wagesel sueldo  = salary
sano
 
healthycuerdo  = sane
sensible
 
sensitivesensato  = sensible
sobre
 
on, above, oversobrio  = sober
la sopa
 
soupel jabón  = soap
soportar
 
to bear, to carryapoyar  = to support
suceder
 
to happen, to followtener éxito  = to succeed
el suceso
 
event, incidentel éxito  = success
la trampa
 
trap
el vagabundo
 
la tuna
 
prickly pear; group of student musiciansel atún  = tuna
últimamente
 
lastly, as a last resortpor último  = ultimately
el vaso
 
glass, tumblerel florero  = vase

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