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Published on: Vocabulary

50+ False Cognates in Spanish That Will Blow Your Mind!

Embarking on the exciting journey of learning Spanish can be both rewarding and full of surprises, especially when it comes to discovering Spanish false cognates. 

These linguistic “false friends” often catch language learners off-guard, leading to embarrassing situations or misunderstandings. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of false cognates in Spanish, providing you with examples and insights to help you avoid potential pitfalls as you learn and grow in your language proficiency.

As any student of a foreign language knows, translating words between two languages can sometimes be a tricky endeavor. While some words may appear to have a similar meaning or even sound alike, they might actually have completely different meanings. 

These so-called “false friends” can cause confusion when talking to native speakers or when trying to communicate effectively in Spanish.

One of the most notorious examples of a Spanish false cognate is the word “embarazada,” which may appear to mean “embarrassed” but actually translates to “pregnant.”


The Spanish Language has more than 3,000 loanwords from Arabic, which is a result of the 700-year rule of the Moors in Spain. Some of these words include “azul” (blue), “naranja” (orange), and “aceituna” (olive), which are commonly used.

Another common example is the word “molestar,” which might seem to mean “molest” but actually means “to bother.” It’s essential to realize that understanding and recognizing these deceptive words is a critical aspect of achieving success in your language learning journey.

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore a myriad of false cognates in Spanish and provide examples to help you better understand these tricky words. 

Whether you’re talking with a friend or engaging with a Spanish-speaking community, being aware of these false cognates will undoubtedly enhance your communication skills and save you from potential misunderstandings.

Join us as we teach you the ins and outs of Spanish false cognates, arming you with the knowledge necessary to navigate these linguistic challenges and ultimately excel in your quest to learn Spanish. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, understanding false cognates is essential to becoming fluent in Spanish

So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of Spanish false cognates!

What Are False Cognates?

Also known as false friends, are words in different languages that look or sound similar but have different meanings. These words can lead to confusion and misunderstandings for language learners, as they may assume that the words have the same meaning in both languages.

For example, the English word “embarrassed” looks similar to the Spanish word “embarazada.” However, while “embarrassed” means feeling ashamed or self-conscious, “embarazada” means pregnant in Spanish. 

Another example is the English word “library” which may be confused with the Spanish word “librería,” which actually means bookstore in Spanish, not library.


The Spanish language has contributed greatly to world literature, and many of its works have been translated into other languages and continue to be widely read and appreciated today.

False friends can also occur between related languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese. For instance, the Spanish word “pasta” means “paste” or “dough,” but in Portuguese, “pasta” refers to “pasta” as in spaghetti or macaroni.

It’s important for language learners to be aware of false cognates, as they can cause confusion and even embarrassment if used incorrectly. 

By understanding the differences between similar-looking or sounding words in different languages, learners can avoid misunderstandings and communicate more effectively.

Image by via Freepik

What Are The Types Of Cognates?

True Cognates

These are words that have similar meanings in different languages and share a common etymology. For example, the English word “family” and the Spanish word “familia” both mean a group of people related by blood or marriage and come from the same Latin root word “familia.”

Partial Cognates

These are words with similar meanings but some differences in spelling or pronunciation. For example, the English word “elephant” and the Spanish word “elefante” have similar meanings and are easy to recognize as related words, but differ in spelling and pronunciation.

False Cognates

These are words that look or sound similar in different languages but have different meanings. For example, the English word “fabric” and the Spanish word “fábrica” look and sound similar, but the English word refers to a material, while the Spanish word refers to a factory or manufacturing plant. 

As we discussed earlier, false cognates can lead to confusion and misunderstandings for language learners.

Spanish Word Meaning (Translation) False Cognate
Actualmente Currently Actually
Asistir To attend To assist
Atender To assist To attend
Balance Scales Balance
Bizarro Brave Bizarre
Carpeta Folder Carpet
Cigarro Cigarette Cigar
Compromiso Commitment Compromise
Constipado Blocked nose Constipated
Contestar To answer To contest
Desgracia Misfortune Disgrace
Embarazada Pregnant Embarrassed
Éxito Success Exit
Fábrica Factory Fabric
Falta Lack Fault
Introducir To insert Introduce
Jubilado Retired Jubilant
Largo Long Large
Librería Bookstore Library
Image by via Freepik
Spanish Word Meaning (Translation) False Cognate
Realizar To carry out To realize
Sopa Soup Soap
Sustituir To replace To substitute
Vaso Glass Vase
Vestido Dress Vested
Cursi Corny Cursing
Apología Defense Apology
Asesorar Advise To assess
Abogado Lawyer Avocado
Comodidad Comfort Commodity
Decepción Disappointment Deception
Divertido Fun Diverted
Destacado Prominent Detached
Emocionante Exciting Emotional
Escritorio Desk Scriptorium
Exitoso Successful Excised
Injerto Graft Injury
Notificar To notify To notice
Enviar To send Envy
Image by Freepik via Freepik
Spanish Word Meaning (Translation) False Cognate
Desgracia Tragedy Disgrace
Casualidad Coincidence Casualty
Empresa Company Empress
Delito Crime Delight
Red Net / Network Red
Horno Oven Horn
Pared Wall Parade
Salado Salty Salad
Asignatura Subject Signature
Plaza Square Place
Barco Boat To bark
Envolver To wrap Involve
Mayor Bigger / Older Mayor (of a city)
Suceso Event / Incident Success
Policía Police Policy
Trampa Trap Tramp
Once Eleven Once 
Grosería Curse word Grocery
Últimamente Lately Ultimately

Study False Cognates To Improve Your Spanish!

Understanding and mastering Spanish fake friends are essential for anyone looking to speak Spanish with confidence and fluency. 

These false friends, though often spelled similarly and sometimes sharing the same origin, can lead to confusing situations and misunderstandings among Spanish speakers and English speakers alike. 

As we have seen, the meanings of these words can differ greatly, which is why it is important to be aware of them when learning Spanish.

False friends can be particularly sensitive for those just starting to learn the language. It is not uncommon to assume that Spanish words with a similar appearance to English words have the same meaning, only to find that they actually have completely different meanings. 

This can lead to awkward and confusing situations, but it is all part of the learning process. By being aware of these false cognates, you can minimize misunderstandings and enhance your communication skills in Spanish.

Having a comprehensive list of these false friends at hand can be extremely useful for those who are new to the language or even for more experienced Spanish speakers.


The Spanish language has many words that are fun to say, such as “chimichurri” (a type of sauce), “zapatería” (shoe store), and “cacahuete” (peanut). These words not only sound enjoyable but also give the Spanish language a unique flavor and character.

This can serve as a quick reference guide to help you avoid common mistakes and improve your overall understanding of the language. However, the list alone may not be enough; the answer to mastering these false cognates lies in practice and experience.

One of the most effective ways to learn and internalize the difference between false friends is by attending classes at a Spanish academy. 

Through structured lessons, you will be exposed to these confusing words in context and given the tools to navigate the tricky landscape of false friends. 

In classes, you will not only learn the correct meanings of these words but also practice using them in real-life situations, helping you solidify your understanding of the language.

In addition to classes, it is important to actively listen to native Spanish speakers and pay attention to the sounds and nuances of the language. 

This will help you to become more sensitive to the subtle differences between false cognates, and over time, you will develop an intuitive understanding of how to use them correctly.

To Sum Up

While Spanish false cognates can be a challenge for those learning the language, they are by no means insurmountable. 

With the right resources, practice, and classes, you will be well-equipped to tackle these false friends head-on and become a confident Spanish speaker. Remember that the key to success lies in persistence, patience, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. 

By embracing the challenge of false friends, you will not only enrich your Spanish vocabulary but also enhance your overall understanding of the language, making your journey of learning Spanish a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

We will provide you with various learning resources, such as textbooks, audio recordings, and video tutorials, to enhance your learning experience. 

Our courses are designed to be flexible and accessible, allowing students to learn at their own pace and schedule, so start today by trying a free 1:1 class or free 7 days of group classes and discover why the SpanishVIP methodology is so successful for hundreds of students!

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