False friends: Spanish/English false cognates

Spanish is a Latin language, it has similarities with Italian, French and Portugues. English, in turn, is a Germanic language; it has similarities with German and Dutch.

However, you might be surprised to learn that many English words come from Latin. Some experts say that 60% of the English words come from Latin and that around 30% to 40% of all vocabulary in English have related words in Spanish.

What are false friends in linguistics?

Those similar words are known as cognates.

Cognates can be:

  • Perfect cognates
  • Near perfect cognates
  • False Cognates

Perfect Cognates

Perfect Cognates are those words that are spelled exactly the same in two languages and have the same meaning. Pronunciation is often different, though.

For example:

Spanish English
Actor Actor
Colonial Colonial
Experimental Experimental
Idea Idea
Social Social

Near Perfect Cognates

Near Perfect Cognates are words that are very similar and have the same meaning but the spelling is slightly different.

For example:

Spanish English
Attention Atención
Contrario Contrary
Salario> Salary
Solitario Solitary
Vocabulario Vocabulary

False Cognates

False Cognates are words that sound very similar but mean something totally different.

These are the words we will talk about in this post!

False Cognates are commonly known as false friends. They have taken this name because they actually fool you.

False friends often confuse people learning both Spanish and English. It’s totally normal to make mistakes while learning a new language, but there is no need to be played for a fool.

We have prepared a very comprehensive list of the most common Spanish-English false friends.

Let’s take a look!

What are some examples of false friends in Spanish?

Abogado Vs. Avocado

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Abogado Lawyer, advocate Avocado Aguacate

Ropa Vs. Rope

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Ropa Clothes Rope Cuerda

Librería Vs. Library

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Librería Bookstore Library Biblioteca

Embarazado/a Vs. Embarrassed

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Embarazado/a Pregnant Embarrassed avergonzado/a

Realizar Vs. Realize

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Realizar To carry out, perform or achieve Realize Darse cuenta

Gangas Vs. Gangs

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Gangas Bargains Gangs Pandillas

Lectura Vs. Lecture

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Lectura Reading Lecture Charla, Conferencia

Recordar Vs. Record

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Recordar To remember Record Grabar

Introducir Vs. Introduce

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Introducir To insert (an object) Introduce Presentar (people)

Carta Vs. Cart

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Carta Letter Cart Carro (supermarket, trolley, etc.)

Advertir Vs. Advertise

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Advertir To warn Advertise Anunciar, hacer publicidad

Asignatura Vs. Signature

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Asignatura Subject Signature Firma

Blanco Vs. Blank

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Blanco White Blank en blanco, vacío

Campo Vs. Camp

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Campo Field, pitch, countryside Camp Campamento

Carpeta Vs. Carpet

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Carpeta Folder Carpet Alfombra

Comodidad Vs. Commodity

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Comodidad Confort Commodity Producto, mercancía

Cuota Vs. Quote

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Cuota Membership, fee Quote  Cita literaria

Envolver Vs. Involve

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Envolver To wrap up Involve Involucrar, implicar

Éxito Vs. Exit

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Éxito Success Exit Salida

Extranjero Vs. Stranger

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Extranjero Foreigner Stranger Extraño, desconocido

Fábrica Vs. Fabric

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Fábrica Factory, Plant Fabric Tela

Firma Vs. Firm

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Firma Signature Firm Empresa, compañía

Grabar Vs. Grab

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Grabar To tape, to record Grab Agarrar, coger, tomar

Gracioso Vs. Gracious

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Gracioso Funny Gracious Cortés, amable

Grosería Vs. Grocery

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Grosería Rude remarkrude expression, rudeness Grocery Tienda de alimentos

Horno Vs. Horn

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Horno Oven Horn Cuerno, bocina

Idioma Vs. Idiom

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Idioma Language Idiom Modismo

Largo Vs. Large

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Largo Long Large Grande, numeroso, amplio

Mayor Vs. Mayor

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Mayor Bigger, biggest, older, oldest Mayor Alcalde

Media Vs. Media

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Media Stocking, or one sock Media Medios de comunicación

Noticia Vs. Notice

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Noticia News Notice Anuncio, aviso

Nudo Vs. Nude

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Nudo Knot Nude Desnudo

Once Vs. Once

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Once Eleven Once Una vez, una vez que, en cuanto

Pan Vs. Pan

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Pan Bread Pan Sartén, cacerola

Pie Vs. Pie

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Pie Foot Pie Tarta

Presumir Vs. Presume

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Presumir To show off, to boast Presume Suponer

Quieto Vs. Quiet

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Quieto Still Quiet Silencioso, callado

Red Vs. Red

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Red Network Red Rojo

Relativo Vs. Relative

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Relativo Related to Relative Pariente, familiar

Restar Vs. Rest

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Restar To subtract Rest Descansar

Soportar Vs. Support

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Soportar To put up with, to bear Support Apoyar

Suceso Vs. Success

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Suceso Event, happening, incident Success Éxito

Trasladarse Vs. Translate

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Trasladarse To move, to transfer Translate Traducir

Tuna Vs. Tuna

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Tuna School or University musical group Tuna Atún

Últimamente Vs. Ultimately

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Últimamente Lately Ultimately Finalmente

Vaso Vs. Vase

Spanish Word English translation English word Spanish translation
Vaso Glass Vase Jarrón

False friends are fun sometimes but you don’t want to be taken as a fool, so make sure you learn the differences.

There are false friends that can put you in trouble. For example:

It’s not the same saying:

“Estoy embarazada” (I’m pregnant)

than

“Estoy avergonzada” (I’m embarrassed)

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