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 despensa (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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