Top 21 False Spanish English Cognates We Use Everyday

Sometimes it seems like the Spanish language cuts us a break, gives us a hint and understands our frustrations. So it gives us some Spanish English Cognates, which are words in two languages that share similar meaning, spelling and pronunciation.

Cognates make the world of language easy and fun.

That is, until we run into its mischievous cousin – the false cognate.

False cognates, depending on the severity, can make even the most macho man blush, never mind, a newbie.

I’ve spoken Spanish all my life and still have been known to say, “Quiero carne sin preservativos” and didn’t realize I was asking for meat without a condom. Yup, I said that.

So in the spirit of avoiding any more mix ups and embarrassing moments here are the top 21 False Cognates to avoid when learning Spanish.

1. Embarazada
• What it sounds like: Embarrassed
• What it means: Pregnant
Correct translation for Embarrassed: Tengo Pena

2. Tuna
• What it sounds like: Tuna Fish. This one is tricky because it’s spelled exactly the same.
• What it means: Prickly Pear
Correct translation for Tuna: Atun

3. Excitado
• What it sounds like: Excited
• What it means: Aroused. And yes with THAT connotation!
Correct translation for Excited: Emocionado/a

4. Carpeta
• What it sounds like: Carpet
• What it means: Binder or Folder
Correct translation for Carpet: Alfombra

5. Exito
• What it sounds like: Exit
• What it means: Success
Correct translation for Exit: Salida

6. Fabrica
• What it sounds like: Fabric
• What it means: Factory
Correct translation for Fabric: Tela

7. Preservativo
• What it sounds like: Preservatives
• What it means: Condom
Correct translation for Preservatives: Conservantes

8. Decepcion
• What it sounds like: Deception
• What it means: You let me down or you failed me
Correct translation for Deception: Engaño

9. Mole
• What it sounds like: Mole. You know that thing on a person’s face
• What it means: Mole. The delicious sauce based Mexican dish
Correct translation for Mole: Lunar or Topo

10. Aventura
• What it sounds like: Adventure
• What it means: Had an Affair
Correct translation for Adventure: On its own it has a connotation of Affair but if you use it as an adjective, noun or pronoun it changes the meaning. For example, Our African safari trip was a real adventure! ¡Nuestro viaje de safari en África realmente fue una aventura!

11. Ropa
• What it sounds like: Rope
• What it means: Clothes
Correct translation for Rope: Cuerda, Laso, Soga, Riata depends on how you use it.

12. Molestar
• What it sounds like: Molest
• What it means: To annoy or be annoying
Correct translation for Molest: Violo or Abuso depending on how you use it.

13. Sopa
• What it sounds like: Soap
• What it means: Soup
Correct translation for Soap: Jabon

14. Realizar
• What it sounds like: Realize
• What it means: Perform
Correct translation for Realize: Darse Cuenta De

15. Introducir
• What it sounds like: Introduce. This word is changing from originally meaning into its cognate.
• What it means: To put something into something else. To penetrate.
Correct translation for Introduce: I’ve always heard Presentar

16. Pie
• What it sounds like: Pie – The dessert
• What it means: Foot
Correct translation for Pie: Tarta but many people also use the English name pie.

17. Recordar
• What it sounds like: Record
• What it means: Remember
Correct translation for Record: Grabar

18. Enviar
• What it sounds like: Envy
• What it means: To Send
Correct translation for Envy: Envidia

19. Actual
• What it sounds like: Actual
• What it means: Current
Correct translation for Actual: Real

20. Asistir
• What it sounds like: Assist
• What it means: Attend
Correct translation for Assist: Ayudar

21. Largo
• What it sounds like: Large
• What it means: Long
Correct translation for Large: Grande

Can you think of any others?

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Fidel is obsessed with Mexico, the enrichment of life through travel and living with no regrets.

Show 6 Comments
  • Mickey May 2, 2017, 5:10 pm

    Sounds like: advertisement
    Means: warning
    Correct translation for advertisement: anuncio

    • Fidel May 2, 2017, 5:19 pm

      Oh that’s a great one! Going to save this one for part two if you don’t mind. Thanks Mickey

  • Lisa May 5, 2017, 7:23 am

    Consado and casado

    • Fidel May 5, 2017, 11:48 am

      That’s definitely another one. I’ll use it for my part 2. Saludos amiga!

  • Denise May 6, 2017, 4:58 am

    “16. Pie • What it sounds like: Pie – The dessert” –actually the spelling LOOKS like pie the dessert. Doesn’t it SOUND like pee-A? And #9 MO-lay?

    • Fidel May 7, 2017, 12:45 pm

      Yes it does. The sound it makes is just like in English pie. Sometimes with a bit of a Spanish accent. lol and Mole definitely sounds the way you say it MO-lay.

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