50 Spanish-English False Friend Words

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Because Spanish and English share a lot of words with Latin roots, it's easy to understand Spanish sentences like, "Seattle aprobó un salario mínimo de $15 la hora." But sometimes words with the same origin take a separate path in each language, or words with different origins resemble each other by coincidence. That can mean trouble. You might want to tell someone you don't want to embarrass her and wind up saying, "I don't want to get you pregnant." For your protection, here's a list of Spanish-English "false friends."

The Spanish words in the first column resemble the English ones in the third column, but have different meanings.

Spanish word English translation English word Spanish translation
ACTUAL current, present-day ACTUAL real, efectivo
AMERICANO person from North or South America AMERICAN estadounidense
ASISTIR to attend, be present at OR to assist ASSIST ayudar
BILLóN (US) trillion, (UK) billion BILLION (US) mil millones
BIZARRO dashing, brave, gallant BIZARRE extraño
BOMBERO firefighter BOMBER bombardero
CARPETA folder CARPET alfombra
CASUALIDAD coincidence, chance CASUALTY víctima
CHOCAR strike, collide CHOKE ahogar
CODO elbow CODE código
COLEGIO high school COLLEGE universidad
COMPROMISO obligation, commitment COMPROMISE componenda
CONDESCENDER to comply, agree CONDESCEND dignarse
CONSTIPADO (n.) a cold CONSTIPATED constipado (adj.)
CONTESTAR to answer CONTEST (v.) contender
CORRIENTEMENTE fluently, plainly, flatly CURRENTLY actualmente
DELITO crime DELIGHT delicia, deleite
DESGRACIA mistake, misfortune DISGRACE vergüenza
DISGUSTO annoyance, worry DISGUST asco, repugnancia
DESTITUIDO fired, deprived DESTITUTE indigente
DORMITORIO bedroom DORMITORY residencia universitaria
EMBARAZADA pregnant EMBARRASSED avergonzada
EMPRESA business enterprise, company EMPRESS emperatríz
ENVIAR send ENVY (v.) envidiar
ESTRECHAR to narrow, bring closer together STRETCH estirar, alargar
ESTIMADO esteemed ESTIMATE estimacíon, presupuesto
ÉXITO success, hit EXIT salida
FÁBRICA factory FABRIC tela
GROSERÍA grossness, crudeness GROCERY abarrotería, tienda de comestibles
INTRODUCIR insert INTRODUCE (someone) presentar
LARGO long LARGE grande
LECTURA reading LECTURE conferencia
LIBRERÍA bookstore LIBRARY biblioteca
MANTEL tablecloth MANTEL manto, mesilla
MOLESTAR bother MOLEST abusar (sexualmente)
NUDO knot NUDE desnudo
PARADA stop, e.g. bus stop PARADE desfile
PARIENTE relative PARENT padre
PRETENDER to attempt, to woo PRETEND fingir
PREOCUPADO worried PREOCCUPIED distraído
REALIZAR to come true REALIZE darse cuenta
RECORDAR to remember, remind RECORD grabar
ROPA clothes ROPE cuerda
SANO healthy SANE cuerdo
SOPA soup SOAP jabón
SOPORTAR tolerate, put up with SUPPORT apoyar
SUCESO event SUCCESS éxito
TUNA prickly pear TUNA atún 
 ÚLTIMAMENTE  recently ULTIMATELY al final
VASO drinking glass VASE  jarrón, florero

Gracias a Susana Hernández Araico, Ph. D., por comprobar esta lista.

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June 10, 2014 - 11:00am
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