Spanish languageFalsos Amigos - False Cognates

One of the great things about learning Spanish or English is that many words have the same roots in the Romance languages and English. However, there are also a great many falsos amigos, or false cognates, which look similar but are in fact very different. This is one of the biggest pitfalls for students of Spanish. There are also semi-false cognates: words that can only sometimes be translated by the similar word in the other language.

Because some of the words are identical in the two languages, the Spanish word appears in blue and the English in purple.
 

Newest falsos amigos

Discusi贸n vs Discussion

Discusi贸n can be a simple discussion, but more commonly it refers to something more intense, like a debate, dispute, or argument.
Discussion is equivalent to discusi贸n or deliberaciones.

Equivocado vs Equivocal

Equivocado means wrong.
Equivocal is equ铆voco or ambiguo.

Nudo vs Nude

Nudo is a noun: knot, node, joint.
Nude is a noun or adjective: desnudo.

Pie vs Pie

Pie = foot.
Pie = pastel.

Tabla vs Table

Tabla can refer to a board, plank, sheet (of metal), table top, or stage.
Table is una mesa.

 
Previous falsos amigos

 
Absoluto vs Absolute(ly)

Absoluto is a rather interesting word. Alone, it means absolute, utter, complete. When preceded by en, it means not at all, by no means, no way.
Absolute = absoluto. Absolutely = absolutamente, completamente, totalmente.

Actual vs Actual

Actual means current or present: El presidente actual vive en Madrid - The current president lives in Madrid. Actualmente means currently, at present, or now.
Actual means verdadero or efectivo. Actually can be translated by realmente, en realidad, or en efecto.

Advertencia vs Advertisement

Advertencia is a warning, piece of advice, reminder, or preface.
Advertisement = un anuncio.

Agon铆a vs Agony

Agon铆a = death throes, dying moments.
Agony refers to terrible physical or mental pain: dolor agudo, angustia.

Alterado vs Altered

Alterado can mean changed or altered as well as angry or upset.
Altered = modificado, cambiado, alterado.

Americano vs American

Americano usually refers to anyone from North or South America.
American = estaounidense (adjective of Estados Unidos - United States)

Aplicar vs Apply

Aplicar means to apply something, like a theory, paint, or sanctions.
Apply = aplicar when it is a transitive verb. As an intransitive verb, it has many translations: apply for a job - solicitar or presentar; to apply oneself to - dirigirse a uno; to apply in the sense of be applicable - ser aplicable or interesar

Apolog铆a vs Apology

Apolog铆a refers to defense or a eulogy.
Apology = una disculpa or excusa.

Aprobar vs Approve

Aprobar means to approve (of), consent to, or endorse, as well as to pass a test or class.
Approve = aprobar.

Arena vs Arena

Arena means sand.
Arena = anfiteatro, redondel, plaza.

Argumento vs Argument

Argumento means argument in the sense of reasoning (as in a courtroom).
Argument in the sense of disagreement translates as una discusi贸n, pelea, disputa, or pol茅mica.

Asesino vs Assassin

Asesino can refer to an assassin as well as non-political murderer or killer. It's also an adjective: murderous.
Assassin = asesino.

Asistencia vs Assistance

Asistencia usually means attendance, though it can also mean assistance.
Assistance is most commonly translated by ayuda or auxilio.

Asistir vs Assist

Asistir means to attend.
Assist translates as ayudar.

Atender vs Attend

Atender can mean to attend in Latin America, but in Spain it means to pay attention to, to heed, or to care for.
Attend = asistir.

Autor vs Author

Autor can refer to an author or writer as well as the creator of something (e.g., a painting) or the perpetrator of a crime.
Author nearly indicates a writer: un autor, una autora.

Bachillerato vs Bachelor

Bachillerato is the equivalent of a high school diploma in the US or A-levels in the UK.
Bachelor refers to an unmarried man: un soltero. A bachelor's degree is una licenciatura.

Bill贸n vs Billion

Bill贸n is kind of a semi-false cognate. It indicates a trillion in US, billion in UK.
Billion, as spoken by an American, = mil millones. When a Brit says billion, s/he means bill贸n.

Bizarro vs Bizarre

Bizarro has two categories of meaning: 1) valient, gallant, brave, or 2) generous.
Bizarre means extra帽o or raro (see raro vs rare, below).

Blanco vs Blank

Blanco is a semi-false cognate. It is usually the Spanish word for the color white but can in some instances be translated by blank: una p谩gina blanca - a blank sheet of paper.
Blank
is an adjective meaning en blanco, liso, or sin adorno.

Blindar vs Blind

Blindar means to armor-plate or to shield, and its adjective blindado means armor-plated, shielded, or bullet-proof.
Blind = ciego as an adjective, and cegar or deslumbrar as a verb.

Bufete vs Buffet

Bufete is a desk or a lawyer's office.
Buffet refers to una cantina, un buffet libre, or una comida buffet.

C谩mara vs Camera

C谩mara can mean a camera, a camera operator, or a chamber.
Camera usually refers to a still camera: una c谩mara, una m谩quina fotogr谩fica.

Campo vs Camp

Campo means country(side), field, or farm.
Camp refers to un campamento.

Cargo vs Cargo

Cargo refers to a post or position as well as a charge in all senses: hacerse cargo de - to take charge, sin cargo - free of charge, retirar los cargos contra - to drop the charges against.
Cargo = cargamento, carga.

Carpeta vs Carpet

Carpeta = folder, file, portfolio, briefcase, or table cloth.
Carpet is una alfombra or una moqueta.

Carrera vs Career

Carrera can refer to any of the following: running, race; a row or line; a beam, girder, or joist; route, ride, journey, course; avenue; career; or university studies.
Career indicates una carrera profesional or una profesi贸n.

Carta vs Cart/Card

Carta refers to a (postal) letter, document, deed, charter, map, or menu.
Cart is un carro, una carreta, un carret贸n, or una carretilla. A card is usually una tarjeta.

Chocar vs Choke

Chocar normally means to shock or startle, but can also mean to clink (glasses) or to shake (hands).
Choke = sofocarse or atragantarse

Colegio vs College

Colegio refers to a high school, usually private.
College can be translated by colegio only when it refers to "colleges" as in divisions of a school. Otherwise, college = universidad or escuela superior.

Colorado vs Colored

Colorado means red or reddish.
Colored = de color.

Complexi贸n vs Complexion

Complexi贸n refers to one's constitution, make-up, temperament, or physical build.
Complexion = la tez, el cutiz, or la piel.

Compromiso vs Compromise

Compromiso is an obligation, commitment, promise, or agreement.
Compromise as a noun can be expressed as una transacci贸n, una avenencia, unas concesiones rec铆procas, el t茅rmino medio, or la soluci贸n intermedia. The verb is comprometer or transigir.

Conductor vs Conductor

Conductor equals conductor when referring to science: un conductor de electricidad - conductor of electricity. It can also mean a driver or a TV or radio presenter.
Conductor of an orchestra is un(a) director(a), and  train conductor is un(a) revisor(a).

Conexi贸n vs Connection

Conexi贸n is a physical or logical connection.
Connection when referring to human/emotional connections is una relaci贸n.

Conferencia vs Conference

Conferencia can mean conference, meeting, lecture, speech, or phone call.
Conference = una conferencia, una reuni贸n, una asamblea, or un congreso.

Constipaci贸n vs Constipation

Constipaci贸n and its synonym constipado both refer to a cold or catarrh.
Constipation = el estre帽imiento.

Contestar vs Contest

Contestar means to answer or reply.
Contest
as a verb means impugnar, atacar, disputar, or contender.

Conveniente vs Convenient

Conveniente means suitable, fitting, proper, useful, or advantageous.
Convenient means c贸modo, pr谩ctico, 煤til, or accesible.

Copa vs Cup

Copa = a glass or goblet, an alcoholic drink, a trophy (la Copa del Mundo - World Cup).
Cup = una taza.

Copia vs Copy

Copia is a photopcopy or other duplicate.
Copy can also mean un ejemplar (of a book) or un n煤mero (of a magazine).

Coraje vs Courage

Coraje can mean courage as well as anger.
Courage can be translated by el coraje as well as el valor, la valent铆a, los 谩nimos, and las fuerzas.

Corresponder vs Correspond

Corresponder means things like to correspond, tally, fit in, match, or belong.
Correspond translates to corresponder only in the sense of agreeing with or matching (e.g., this corresponds with our thoughts). When referring to a correspondence by mail, the Spanish translation is escribirse or estar en correspondencia con.

Cuesti贸n vs Question

Cuesti贸n is a matter/issue/question to be resolved.
Question is translated by cuesti贸n when referring to an issue, or una pregunta when asking a question.

Culto vs Cult

Culto can refer to a religious sect or to a religious service. As an adjective, it means cultured or refined.
Cult = una secta.

Damnificado vs Damned

Damnificado = victim, from the verb damnificar - to injure, harm, damage.
Damned means condenado or maldito.

Decepci贸n/Decepcionar vs Deception/Deceive

Decepci贸n = disappointment. Decepcionar = to disappoint.
Deception = un enga帽o, un fraude. To deceive = enga帽ar, defraudar.

Defraudar vs Defraud

Defraudar can mean to defraud or cheat as well as to disappoint or let down.
Defraud means estafar or defraudar.

Delito vs Delight

Delito refers to a crime, offence, or misdeed.
Delight = el placer, el deleite, el encanto, or la delicia. To delight = encantar or deleitar.

Departamento vs Department

Departamento means department, section; office; compartment; province; or apartment.
Department = departamento, secci贸n, ministerio.

Desgracia vs Disgrace

Desgracia means misfortune, mishap, accident, setback, or bad luck.
Disgrace refers to la deshonra or ignominia.

Deshonesto vs Dishonest

Deshonesto means indecent or lewd. It means dishonest only in the sense of untrustworthy, not in the sense of not telling the truth.
Dishonest = poco honrado, fraudulento.

Despertar vs Desperate

Despertar means to wake up, both figuratively and literally, and requires a direct object. To say "I'm waking up" in the sense of getting out of bed, you need to use the reflexive form, despertarse.
Desperate = desesperado

Destituido vs Destitute

Destituido means devoid of or lacking.
Destitute = indigente, desamparado, necesitado, or en la miseria.

Disco vs Disco

Disco is a semi-false cognate. Aside from disco, it has numerous translations: disk, discus, traffic-light, or (audio) record.
Disco = disco, discoteca, or sala de baile.

Discutir vs Discuss

Discutir is stronger than discuss; more like debate or argue.
Discuss = hablar de, tratar de, comentar.

Disgusto vs Disgust

Disgusto is not as strong as disgust; it means annoyance, displeasure, grief, or trouble.
Disgust refers to repugnancia or aversi贸n.

Echar vs Echo

Echar has numerous meanings, including to throw, to put, to pour, to give, to cut, and to push.
Echo means resonar, repetir, or hacer eco.

Editor vs Editor

Editor is an adjective: publishing, and a noun: publisher or editor.
Editor can be translated by editor, director, or redactor.

Educaci贸n vs Education

Educaci贸n has a broader meaning than education. The Spanish word's best translation is upbringing, which includes both school education as well as what a child learns at home.
Education is best translated by formaci贸n or ense帽anza.

Educado vs Educated

Educado means well-mannered, polite, or cultivated, from the verb educar - to raise, bring up, rear.
Educated is from the verb to educate: formar or instruir.

Efectivo vs Effective

Efectivo means real or actual. En efectivo means in cash. Efectivos are military forces or (police) officers.
Effective = eficaz.

Elevador vs Elevator

Elevador means elevator only in Mexico, though un elevador de granos is a grain elevator anywhere.
Elevator = un ascensor.

Embarazada vs Embarrassed

Embarazada means pregnant. It can also be a noun: una embarazada = a pregnant woman, an expectant mother.
Embarrassed is avergonzado, molesto, or inc贸modo.
(anecdote about embarazada)

Emocionante vs Emotional

Emocionante means exciting, thrilling, or moving.
Emotional indicates something that is afectivo, emocional, or emotivo, or someone that is sentimental.

Eventual vs Eventual

Eventual means fortuitous, possible, or temporary.
Eventual = final, definitivo, consiguiente.

Excitar vs Excite

Excitar means to excite sexually.
Excite when talking about something you're looking forward to is entusiasmar or provocar.

脡xito vs Exit

脡xito means success: a gran 茅xito - very successful.
Exit is una salida.

F谩brica vs Fabric

F谩brica is a factory, plant, or mill.
Fabric is el tejido or la tela.

Factor铆a vs Factory

Factor铆a can mean a factory (in some Spanish-speaking countries), but is more commonly a trading post.
Factory = una f谩brica.

Facultad vs Faculty

Facultad refers to mental faculty, power or ability, or a university department.
Faculty in reference to a group of teachers is el profesorado.

Falta vs Fault

Falta is a lack, want, need, absence, shortage, failure, or shortcoming.
A fault (imperfection) is un defecto, un desperfecto, or una imperfecci贸n. Fault (blame) is la culpa.

Familiar vs Familiar

Familiar as an adjective means family, familiar, domestic, informal, plain, or colloquial. As a noun it refers to a relative or close friend.
Familiar is only an adjective: familiar, conocido, com煤n, familiarizado, 铆ntimo.

Fastidioso vs Fastidious

Fastidioso means annoying or boring. It can mean fastidious in Latin America.
Fastidious means escrupuloso.

Firma vs Firm

Firma can refer to a firm, but more commonly means a signature.
Firm as an adjective means firme, s贸lido, duro, seguro. As a noun, it can be translated by una firma or una empresa.

Fiscal vs Fiscal

Fiscal means fiscal or tax-related as an adjective. As a noun, however, it refers to a district attorney or public prosecutor.
Fiscal = fiscal.

Formal vs Formal

Formal means reliable, dependable, responsible, or serious.
Formal means solemne, correcto, oficial, or, when referring to clothing, de etiqueta.

Fracaso vs Fracas

Fracaso is a failure or disaster.
Fracas is une gresca or una reyerta.

F煤tbol vs Football 

F煤tbol refers to soccer (in American English).
Football = el f煤tbol americano.

F煤til vs Futile

F煤til means trivial, while
Futile means in煤til, vano, or infructuoso

Grabar vs Grab

Grabar is to engrave, record, or impress.
Grab means asir, coger, or arrebatar.

Gracioso vs Gracious

Gracioso means funny or cute.
Gracious = gentil, cort茅s, or refinado.

Groser铆a vs Grocery Store

Groser铆a seems to follow the -铆a pattern on most Spanish words for stores, but in fact it refers only to rudeness, crudeness, or vulgarity.
Grocery Store = tienda de abarrotes/comestibles, bodega, or abacer铆a, depending on what country you're in.

Honesto vs Honest

Honesto means sincere, honorable, or decent.
Honest = sincero, franco, or honrado.

Humor vs Humor

Humor means mood or humor.
Humor refers to gracia or humor. Sense of humor = sentido del humor.

Idioma vs Idiom

Idioma refers to a language.
Idiom = idiotosmo, modismo, or lenguaje.

Ignorar vs Ignore

Ignorar means to not know or to be unaware of.
Ignore means no hacer caso de, desatender, or dejar a un lado.

Insulto vs Insult

Insulto means insult in most places, but in Mexico it can also refer to indigestion or a stomachache.
Insult = insulto.

Introducir vs Introduce

Introducir is a semi-false cognate. It means to introduce only in the context of introducing a topic.
Introduce can mean to introduce a topic or a person. The latter is translated by presentar in Spanish.

Jubilaci贸n vs Jubilation

Jubilaci贸n refers to retirement: both the act of retiring and a pension.
Jubilation = j煤bilo.

Labor vs Labor

Labor can mean any kind of work: paid work, chores, needlework, etc.
Labor refers to trabajo (the actual work) or la mano de obra (the workers).

Largo vs Large

Largo means long, generous, or abundant.
Large = grande or importante.

Lectura vs Lecture

Lectura refers to the act of reading or reading material.
Lecture = una conferencia, una explicaci贸n, or un sermoneo.

Letra vs Letter

Letra refers only to a letter of the alphabet.
Letter is un letra (of the alphabet) or una carta (that you write to a friend).

Librer铆a/Librero vs Library

Librer铆a is a bookstore, while librero refers to a bookseller or bookcase.
Library refers to una biblioteca.

Lujuria vs Luxury

Lujuria = lust, lewdness, excess.
Luxury = el lujo.

Mama vs Mama

Mama refers to a breast.
Mama = mam谩 (see how important an accent can be?)

Mango vs Mango

Mango can mean mango the fruit as well as a handle (as of a knife).
Mango = mango.

Marca/Marco vs Mark

Marca is a mark (as in a spot or line) as well as a brand, make, or label. In sports, una marca is a record or best time. Un marco is a (picture) frame, goal, setting, or framework.
Mark can be translated by una mancha or una se帽al.

Masa vs Mass

Masa can mean mass (in terms of people and volume), as well as dough.
Mass in reference to church is la misa.

Matar vs Mate

Matar means to kill.
Mate = as a noun is un macho / una hembra for animals, un compa帽ero / una compa帽era for people. To mate means aparear or unir.

Mayor vs Mayor

Mayor as an adjective means main, major, larger, older. As a noun is means chief, boss, superior, adult, or ancestor.
Mayor = el alcalde or la alcadesa.

Minorista vs Minority

Minorista is a Caribbean and South American word for retail or retail seller.
Minority = la minor铆a or, as an adjective, minoritario.

Molestar vs Molest

Molestar means to annoy or bother.
Molest = acosar sexualmente.

Motivo vs Motive

Motivo isn't necessarily the same thing as motive (which tends to have a negative connotation, like "motive for the murder"); it's more like reason or cause.
Motive = m贸vil, motivos, or intenci贸n.

Natural vs Natural