Spanish False Cognates  

I created this page to keep Spanish students from falling victim to false cognates! The most common mistake made when speaking is to use a Spanish word that looks or sounds similar to an English word but has a totally different meaning. This can result in confusion and embarrassment!. A Spanish word that is similar to an English word, but has a different meaning, is known as a false cognate. Some examples of false cognates are shown below.

Spanish Word English Translation Confused With Spanish Translation
abandonar to quit to remove quitar
absoluto absolute absolutely absolutamente, completamente
en absoluto not at all absolutely totalmente
actual current actual verdadero
acuartelamiento billet ticket billete
advertencia a warning advertisement anuncio
agonía dying moments agony dolor fuerte
aguacate avocado lawyer abogado
alcalde mayor bigger mayor
alfombra carpet folder carpeta
anunciar to advertise to warn advertir
apoyar to support to put up with soportar
árbitro umpire empire imperio
asistencia attendance attention atención
avergonzado embarrassed pregnant embarazada
ayudar to assist to attend asistir a un lugar
banco bank bench banco de plaza
basamento base of a column basement el sótano
base militar camp field campo en general
biblioteca library bookshop librería
bizarro brave bizarre extraño or estrafalario
brazo arm gun arma
cacerola pan bread pan
calumniar to traduce to translate traduce
carpeta file folder carpet alfombra
ceder to compromise commitment compromiso
cena dinner money dinero
chocar to crash choke ahogar, sofocar
compasión sympathy affection simpatía
complexión physiological build skin complexion tez or cutis
comprensivo sympathetic likeable simpático
común ordinary ordinary vulgar
conocido familiar relative pariente
concurso contest to answer contestar
conferencia lecture reading lectura
consejo council to reconcile conciliar
consejos advice warning, notice aviso
conservante preservative condom preservativo
cortés gracious funny gracioso
cuerda rope clothes ropa
cuerdo sane healthy sano
cuerno horn oven horno
cuerpo body wedding boda
darse cuenta to realize to make realizar
decepción disappointment to deceive someone engañar a alguien
delito crime delight deleite
desconocido stranger foreigner extranjero
desesperado desperate to wake up despertar
desfile parade wall pared
desgracia mistake something shameful una vergüenza
desviación diversion fun diversión
dibujos animados cartoon cardboard cartón
diferenciado discrete discreet discreto
discusión argument plot argumento de un libro
disgusto displeasure disgust asco or repugnancia
ebrio intoxicated food poisoning intoxicado
emocionante thrilling or emotionally moving emotional emocional
entusiasta zealous jealous celoso
éxito success event suceso
ensalada salad salty salado
economía economics cheap económicos
ejército army navy marina
engaño deception disappointment decepción
estadio arena sand arena
evaluación assessment consultancy asesoría
eventual incidental eventual definitivo
fábrica factory cloth tejido and tela
facultad college school colegio
fecha date data dato
fenomenal, genial terrific terrifying terrorífico
final ultimate last último
finalmente eventually by chance, possibly eventualmente
firma signature subject asignatura
formulario form shape forma
fútil trivial or insignificant futile ineficaz, vano or inútil
ganga bargain gang pandilla
globo balloon ball balón
grabar to record to remember recordar
grande large long largo
habitante inhabitant uninhabited inhabitado
impuesto tax taxi taxi
inconsecuente contradictory inconsequential de poca importancia
ingenio ingenuity naivety ingenuidad
involucrar involve wrap envolver
jabón soap soup sopa
ladrar o ladrido bark boat, ship barco
lograr to attain to tie atar
lugar place square plaza
lujo luxury lust lujuria
maldición curse course curso
maleducado rude rough rudo
medios media sock media
mil millones billion trillion billón
minorista retailer minority una minoría
modismo idiom language idioma
molestar to bother or to annoy to molest abusar sexualmente
objetivo target card tarjeta
oficina office job oficio
orden command commando unit comando
padres parents relatives parientes
pala spade sword espada
parientes relatives relative (adjective) relativos
pecado sin without sin
pedir disculpas to apologize defence apología
política policy police policía
postre dessert desert desierto
pretender to try to pretend fingir or simular
propenso apt qualified, able apto
quedarse to stay to be estar
quejarse to complain to please complacer
quitar to remove to stir remover
rapista barber someone who attacks sexually violador
real actual current actual
reanudar to resume to sum up resumir
recordar to remember to record (audio or video) grabar
recuerdo recollection harvest recolección
salida exit success éxito
sensiblemente appreciably sensibly sesudamente
sensitivo sensible sensitive sensible
soportar put up with support mantener
suceso event or happening success un éxito
sufrir de estreñimiento (to be) constipated to have a cold/chill estar constipado
de tamaño normal regular bad regular
tela fabric factory fábrica
traducir to translate to move trasladarse
tristeza misery poverty miseria
tienda de comestibles grocery rudeness grosería
últimamente lately ultimately al final
vagabundo tramp trap trampa
valiente brave fierce bravo
vapor fume smoke fumar
vaso drinking glass vase jarrón
una vez once eleven once
vieira scallop scallop(meal) escalope

Beware of false cognates! Spanish students whose first language is English may begin to assume that all Spanish words that sound the same as English words also have the same meaning. These students fall victim to false cognates and this can lead to embarrassing situations, at best, or start violent disagreements and even death, at worst.

Before you do anything, you should first take our online Spanish test. If you have problems with Spanish false cognates, you may want to consider working with a private tutor one or two hours per week. This will quickly take your Spanish to the next level. Private online Spanish tutors are available from NuLengua.com. If you decide to use a tutor, you should also work with the tutor to learn the most common Spanish adjectives.







Popular Phrase: how to say due | Hello Spanish | Conjugated Verb: zurriagar - scourge, whips [ click for full conjugation ]