False cognates

Cognates are words in two languages that have a common etymology and look similar or identical. Cognates often have a similar meaning, but in some cases the meaning has changed over the centuries in one language or another.

The term “cognate” is used to refer to words in two languages that are similar but have no common origin, such as the Spanish sopa (meaning “soup”) and the English “soap.” Another example, the word “rope” looks similar to the Spanish word “ropa”; however both are different. The word “ropa” means clothes and has nothing to do with the rope you use when you need to tie something.

A common mistake we all learners make when learning to speak Spanish/English is to use  words that look or sound similar to our native language but on the road we discover that these words have a totally different meaning. This process commonly results in confusion and embarrassment!. We get frustrated because right when we thought we were masters on speaking in a foreign language the Falsos amigos ruin our expectations. A Spanish word that is similar to an English word, but has a different meaning, is known as a false cognate.

So don’t be disappointed if you make mistakes while learning Spanish. Remember that through these mistakes you will get better and your Spanish skills will improve eventually. Keep in mind that the more you understand about the use of the Falsos amigos the better your communication will be.

Below you can see popular Falsos amigos or false cognates. These words tend to confuse us:

Actually en realidad actualmente currently
Assist ayudar asistir to attend
Attend asistir atender to attend to
Bizarre extraño bizarro gallant
Carpet alfombra carpeta folder
Choke estrangular chocar to collide, to crash
Deception engaño decepción disappointment
Embarrassed avergonzado embarazada pregnant
Exit salida éxito success
Idiom modismo idioma language