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English-Spanish false friends

In the previous lesson, we have seen that Spanish and English have so many words in common. The words which have the same meanings are called cognates. We have pointed out in that lesson that as an English speaker, you actually know much more about Spanish than you probably think.

On the other hand, while learning the cognates, you should be alert to the false cognates as well. These Spanish words, as the name already suggests, look like they have English counterparts. On the other hand, the similar English words have completely other meanings.

False cognates are called as false friends as well. And in Spanish, they are called as “falsos amigos”.

In this lesson we will go through the majority of the English-Spanish false friends, which one should be aware of even at a beginner level.

In the following, first the Spanish word which looks like a word in English is given and then its translation is provided. Furthermore, the words were grouped as adjectives, nouns, verbs and adverbs for your convenience.



asistir: to attend

To say assist, you may use ayudar.

contestar: to answer, to return.

To contest is rebatir or impugner.

pretender: to try, to claim

To pretend is finger

explanar: to level

To explain is explicar

ignorar: to not know

to ignore is “no hacer caso”

quitar: to remove, to take off

to quit is dejar or abandoner

restar: to take away, subtract

to rest is descansar


(la) carpeta: folder

Carpet is (la) alfombra.

(la) decepción: disappointment

Deception is engaño.

(el) disgusto: displeasure

Disgust is (la) repugnancia.

(el) éxito: success

Exit is (la) salida.

(la) fábrica: factory

Fabric is (la) tela or (el) tejido.

(la) ropa: dress

Rope is (la) cuerda.

(la) sopa: soup

Soap is (el) jabón

(el) suceso: event

As mentioned above, success is (el) éxito.

(la) carta: letter

cart is (la) carreta.

(el) idioma: language

idiom is (el) modismo

(la) lectura: reading

Lecture is conferencia

(el) sauce: willow

sauce is (la) salsa.

(la) boda: wedding

Body is (el) cuerpo.

(la) tabla: board

Table is (la) mesa

(la) recolección: collection

Recollection is (el) recuerdo

(la) advertencia: warning

Advertisement is anuncio.

(la) apología: defence

Apology is (la) disculpa

(la) arena: sand

The English arena can be (la) plaza, (el) estadio, (la) palestra, depending on the context.

(el) campo: country side

Camp is (el) campamento

(la) desgracia: misfortune

(la) deshonra: dishonor

(la) falta: lack

Fault is (el) defecto

(la) letra: letter of an alphabet

Letter is (la) carta

(la) librería: bookshop

Library is (la) biblioteca

(el) colegio: high school

College is (la) universidad

(la) lujuria: lust

Luxury is (el) lujo

(la) trampa: trap

Tramp is (el) ruido or (la) caminata

 (el) negocio: business

Negotiation is (la) negociación.

(el) nombre: noun

Number is número

(la) noticia: news

Notice is (el) aviso

(la) receta: recipe, prescription

Receipt is (el) recibo

(el) oficio: trade

Office is (la) oficina

once: eleven

The English once is “una vez”

(el) pan: bread

The English pan is (la) cazuela

(el) Papa: pope

(la) Papa: potato

The word which means dad is papa.

(el/la) pariente: relative

Parent is either (el) padre father or (la) madre mother. Parents is (los) padres

(la) sentencia: sentence (in the judicial sense)

If you would like to mean sentence as in grammar, use (la) frase.

(la) red: network

The color red is (el) rojo

(la) firma: signature

Firm is (la) compañía


actual: current, present

The English “actual” is verdadero/-a.

Similarly, actualmente means currently, at present. Actually is realmente or en realidad

bizarro/-a: brave

Bizarre is extraño/-a.

embarazada: pregnant

Embarrassing is embarazoso/-a.

inconsecuente: inconsistent

Inconsequential is sin trascendencia.

largo/-a: long

Large is grande

sensible: sensitive

English “sensible” is sensate/-a.

simpatico/-a: nice, pleasant

sympathetic is compasivo/-a

colorado/-a: red

Colored is “de color”

emocionante: moving

Emotional is emocional

eventual: possible

The English eventual is final or definitive/-a in Spanish

formal: reliable, responsible, dependable

The English formal is correcto

gracioso/-a: funny, amusing

gracious is refinado

mayor: bigger, larger

The English mayor is (el/la) alcalde / alcaldesa

eventualmente: possibly, from time to time, by chance

eventually is finalmente or al final

Let's Practice

Choose the correct word given in the brackets.

All Exercises