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Falsos Amigos: False Spanish Cognates.

Updated: May 25, 2020

What is a cognate? It’s when two words sound very similar in two different languages. This is often very useful when learning a language, as you can easily guess the meaning of words based on the context and how it sounds. This happens when the origin of the word is common between the two languages. In addition, you can find cognates when one language borrows a word from another. The word might undergo morphological transformations to suit the characteristics of the new language. It can be a great feeling for someone learning a language to encounter a word that is so similar to their mother tongue! English and Spanish both have been influenced by Latin, there are therefore many words that can be of equal or similar meaning in both. Sometimes, however, that seemingly familiar word is a trap. A false cognate is a word that sounds like it should be the same, but actually means something completely different. These false cognates can often get new Spanish learners into trouble. One of the most infamous false cognate in Spanish is embarazada. Many novice Spanish speakers misuse this word, thinking that it means embarrassed, when in reality, it means... pregnant! Below are a few examples of words I find my students confusing regularly!

It’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the most common false cognates. And remember… Estoy embarazada is not what you say after accidentally mixing up false cognates!

~ If you enjoyed this article please share it with friends and give my page a like on Facebook! I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been exclusively teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~
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