False Cognates

Quick Answer

False cognates, often called falsos amigos  in Spanish, are words in different languages that appear similar, but do not actually mean the same thing.

Spanish and English have many cognates, or words with the same origin. These words often mean essentially the same thing in Spanish and English. For example:

SpanishEnglish
decidir
 
to decide
maravilloso
 
marvelous
angular
 
angular

However, there are many Spanish and English words that appear to be cognates, but in fact mean very different things in each language. These are called false cognates, or false friends.

Below you'll find an extensive list of false cognates you should watch out for.

  • The first and third columns of each table show the Spanish and English false cognates, respectively.
  • The second column shows the English translation of the Spanish false cognate.
  • The fourth column shows the Spanish translation of the English false cognate.

Adjective and Adverb False Cognates

This Spanish word......translates to this in English.But it can be confused with this word......which actually means this.
actual
 
currentactual
verdadero
 
actualmente
 
currentlyactually
realmente
 
bizarro
 
valiant, gallantbizarre
extraño
 
blanco
 
whiteblank
sin adorno
 
colorado
 
red, reddishcolored
de color
 
culto
 
educatedcult
de culto
 
destituido
 
dismissed, ousteddestitute
indigente
 
educado
 
politeeducated
culto
 
embarazada
 
pregnantembarrassed
avergonzado
 
emocionante
 
excitingemotional
sensible
 
eventual
 
possible, temporaryeventual
definitivo
 
fastidioso
 
annoyingfastidious
escrupuloso
 
gracioso
 
funnygracious
cortés
 
largo
 
longlarge
grande
 
mayor
 
older, largermayor
alcalde
 
real
 
royalreal
verdadero
 
sano
 
healthysane
cuerdo
 
sensible
 
sensitivesensible
sensato
 
sobre
 
on, above, oversober
sobrio
 
últimamente
 
latelyultimately
finalmente
 
último
 
lastultimatefinal  or máximo 

Noun False Cognates

This Spanish word......translates to this in English.But it can be confused with this word......which actually means this.
la advertencia
 
warningadvertisement
el anuncio
 
la agonía
 
death throesagony
la angustia
 
la apología
 
defense, eulogyapology
la disculpa
 
la arena
 
sandarena
el anfiteatro
 
el argumento
 
reasoning, debateargument
la disputa
 
el asesino
 
murderer, killerassassinel asesino pagado , el sicario 
la asistencia
 
attendanceassistance
el apoyo
 
el bachillerato
 
high school or A-level diplomabachelor
el soltero
 
el billón
 
trillionbillion
mil millones
 
el bufete
 
deskbuffet
el bufé
 
el campo
 
countrysidecamp
el campamento
 
el cargo
 
post, positioncargo
la carga
 
la carpeta
 
folder, bindercarpet
la alfombra
 
la carrera
 
race, journey or university program of studiescareer
la trayectoria professional
 
la carta
 
lettercart
el carrito
 
el colegio
 
high schoolcollege
la universidad
 
la complexión
 
constitution, temperamentcomplexion
la tez
 
el compromiso
 
commitmentcompromise
la solución intermedia
 
el conductor
 
driverconductorel director  (orchestral conductor); el revisor  (train conductor)
la copa
 
glass, goblet; trophycup
vaso
 
el damnificado
 
victimdamned
maldito
 
la decepción
 
disappointmentdeception
el engaño
 
el delito
 
crimedelight
el placer
 
la desgracia
 
misfortune, accidentdisgrace
la deshonra
 
la educación
 
upbringingeducation
la formación
 
el elevador
 
hoistelevator
el ascensor
 
el éxito
 
successexit
la salida
 
la fábrica
 
factoryfabric
la tela
 
la falta
 
absence, shortage, lackfaultel defecto  (imperfection); la culpa  (guilt)
la firma
 
signaturefirm
la empresa
 
el fútbol
 
soccerfootball
el fútbol americano
 
la grosería
 
rudenessgrocery/groceriesla tienda de comestibles  (store); la dispensa  (food items)
el humor
 
moodhumor
la gracia
 
el idioma
 
languageidiom
el modismo
 
la jubilación
 
retirementjubilation
el júbilo
 
la lectura
 
reading, reading materiallecture
la conferencia
 
la letra
 
letter of the alphabet; lyrics to a songletter
la carta
 
la librería
 
bookstorelibrary
la biblioteca
 
la lujuria
 
lustluxury
el lujo
 
la mama
 
breastmother
la mamá
 
la marca
 
brand, recordmark
la mancha
 
la masa
 
doughmass (at church)
la misa
 
el negocio
 
businessnegotiation
la negociación
 
el nombre
 
name; nounnumber
el número
 
la noticia
 
newsnotice
el aviso
 
la ocasión
 
opportunity; bargainoccasion
la vez
 
el oficio
 
trade, function; religious serviceoffice
la oficina
 
once
 
elevenonce
una vez
 
el pan
 
breadpan
la cacerola
 
la papa
 
potatofather
el papá
 
el pariente
 
close relativeparent
el padre
 
el patrón
 
boss; standardpatron
el patrocinador
 
el plagio
 
plagiarismplague
la peste
 
el preservativo
 
condompreservative
el conservador
 
la receta
 
recipe, prescriptionreceipt
el recibo
 
la recolección
 
harvest, collectionrecollection
el recuerdo
 
la red
 
network, netred
rojo
 
la ropa
 
clothingrope
la cuerda
 
el salario
 
hourly wagessalary
el sueldo
 
la sopa
 
soupsoap
el jabón
 
el suceso
 
event, incidentsuccess
el éxito
 
la trampa
 
traptramp
el vagabundo
 
la tuna
 
prickly pear; group of student musicianstuna
el atún
 
el vaso
 
glass, tumblervase
el florero
 

Verb False Cognates

This Spanish word......translates to this in English.But it can be confused with this word......which actually means this.
asistir
 
to attendto assist
ayudar
 
blindar
 
to shieldto blind
cegar
 
chocar
 
to crashto chokeestrangular  or sofocarse 
contestar
 
to answerto contest
contender
 
corresponder
 
to agree with, to matchto correspond (in writing)
escribirse
 
decepcionar
 
to disappointto deceive
engañar
 
despertar
 
to wake updesperate
desesperado
 
discutir
 
to debate, to argueto discuss
hablar de
 
echar
 
to throw, to pourto echo
resonar
 
excitar
 
to excite sexuallyto excite
entusiasmar
 
grabar
 
to save, to recordto grab
asir
 
ignorar
 
to be unaware ofto ignore
no hacer caso de
 
molestar
 
to annoyto molest
acosar sexualmente
 
pretender
 
to claimto pretend
fingir
 
procurar
 
to manage (to do something)to procure
obtener
 
quitar
 
to take away, to get rid ofto quit
dejar
 
realizar
 
to fulfillto realize
darse cuenta de
 
recordar
 
to rememberto record
grabar
 
restar
 
to subtractto rest
descansar
 
revolver
 
to turn overrevolver
el revólver
 
soportar
 
to bear, to carryto support
apoyar
 
suceder
 
to happen, to followto succeed
tener éxito
 

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