An English speaker’s perspective

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False Friends / False Cognates

While doing some research for a couple of words, I learned that false cognates and a false friends are not the same thing.

False cognates are two words which have no etymological connection, but are similar in form and meaning. An example of this is the English word day and the Spanish word día. Their root words are different. The English word comes from an Indo-European background before Old English. The Spanish word comes from Latin. It is just a coincidence that they look and sound similar and therefore they are false cognates.

Whereas false friends are words which look or sound similar, but have different meanings. You will see many of these in your study of Spanish. An example would be asistir and atender which mean attend and assist (respectively).

False cognates are really not much of a concern to us as students of Spanish. Whether the words derived from the same source or not, they mean the same thing. It is false friends which we need to be aware of and realize they are there to trip us up.

  • 1

    […] are two words that can be really confusing for the English speaker because they are false friends. First let’s review what the meanings are in English of assist and […]

    Asistir / Atender on August 30th, 2007
  • 2

    […] word realizar does not mean to realize. It is a false friend. Realizar means to bring to pass, as in “Bill realized his life long […]

    Darse cuenta on August 31st, 2007
  • 3

    […]alse cognates are really not much of a concern to us as students of Spanish.[…]
    And English students I can assure you, they should be banned


    luthien on September 2nd, 2007
  • 4

    […] is a word that falls into the false friends category. Lectura does not mean lecture. It is closely tied with the word escritura in that it […]

    Lectura on October 4th, 2007


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