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:

SpanishEnglish
ActorActor
ColonialColonial
ExperimentalExperimental
IdeaIdea
SocialSocial

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:

SpanishEnglish
AttentionAtención
ContrarioContrary
Salario>Salary
SolitarioSolitary
VocabularioVocabulary

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 WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
AbogadoLawyer, advocateAvocadoAguacate

Ropa Vs. Rope

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RopaClothesRopeCuerda

Librería Vs. Library

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
LibreríaBookstoreLibraryBiblioteca

Embarazado/a Vs. Embarrassed

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
Embarazado/aPregnantEmbarrassedavergonzado/a

Realizar Vs. Realize

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RealizarTo carry out, perform or achieveRealizeDarse cuenta

Gangas Vs. Gangs

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
GangasBargainsGangsPandillas

Lectura Vs. Lecture

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
LecturaReadingLectureCharla, Conferencia

Recordar Vs. Record

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RecordarTo rememberRecordGrabar

Introducir Vs. Introduce

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
IntroducirTo insert (an object)IntroducePresentar (people)

Carta Vs. Cart

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
CartaLetterCartCarro (supermarket, trolley, etc.)

Advertir Vs. Advertise

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
AdvertirTo warnAdvertiseAnunciar, hacer publicidad

Asignatura Vs. Signature

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
AsignaturaSubjectSignatureFirma

Blanco Vs. Blank

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
BlancoWhiteBlanken blanco, vacío

Campo Vs. Camp

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
CampoField, pitch, countrysideCampCampamento

Carpeta Vs. Carpet

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
CarpetaFolderCarpetAlfombra

Comodidad Vs. Commodity

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
ComodidadConfortCommodityProducto, mercancía

Cuota Vs. Quote

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
CuotaMembership, feeQuote Cita literaria

Envolver Vs. Involve

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
EnvolverTo wrap upInvolveInvolucrar, implicar

Éxito Vs. Exit

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
ÉxitoSuccessExitSalida

Extranjero Vs. Stranger

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
ExtranjeroForeignerStrangerExtraño, desconocido

Fábrica Vs. Fabric

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
FábricaFactory, PlantFabricTela

Firma Vs. Firm

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
FirmaSignatureFirmEmpresa, compañía

Grabar Vs. Grab

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
GrabarTo tape, to recordGrabAgarrar, coger, tomar

Gracioso Vs. Gracious

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
GraciosoFunnyGraciousCortés, amable

Grosería Vs. Grocery

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
GroseríaRude remarkrude expression, rudenessGroceryTienda de alimentos

Horno Vs. Horn

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
HornoOvenHornCuerno, bocina

Idioma Vs. Idiom

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
IdiomaLanguageIdiomModismo

Largo Vs. Large

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
LargoLongLargeGrande, numeroso, amplio

Mayor Vs. Mayor

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
MayorBigger, biggest, older, oldestMayorAlcalde

Media Vs. Media

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
MediaStocking, or one sockMediaMedios de comunicación

Noticia Vs. Notice

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
NoticiaNewsNoticeAnuncio, aviso

Nudo Vs. Nude

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
NudoKnotNudeDesnudo

Once Vs. Once

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
OnceElevenOnceUna vez, una vez que, en cuanto

Pan Vs. Pan

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
PanBreadPanSartén, cacerola

Pie Vs. Pie

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
PieFootPieTarta

Presumir Vs. Presume

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
PresumirTo show off, to boastPresumeSuponer

Quieto Vs. Quiet

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
QuietoStillQuietSilencioso, callado

Red Vs. Red

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RedNetworkRedRojo

Relativo Vs. Relative

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RelativoRelated toRelativePariente, familiar

Restar Vs. Rest

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
RestarTo subtractRestDescansar

Soportar Vs. Support

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
SoportarTo put up with, to bearSupportApoyar

Suceso Vs. Success

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
SucesoEvent, happening, incidentSuccessÉxito

Trasladarse Vs. Translate

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
TrasladarseTo move, to transferTranslateTraducir

Tuna Vs. Tuna

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
TunaSchool or University musical groupTunaAtún

Últimamente Vs. Ultimately

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
ÚltimamenteLatelyUltimatelyFinalmente

Vaso Vs. Vase

Spanish WordEnglish translationEnglish wordSpanish translation
VasoGlassVaseJarrón

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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