False Friends

When we learn a new language, we have to be careful of false friends; words which look or sound almost the same as words in our native language. It’s best to look the words up in a dictionary as the English word rarely means the same as the false friend in another language. As the original meaning of a word changes over time or is borrowed from another language and is used differently from the beginning, this causes confusion.

The English word "actual" looks and sounds like words in many other languages but may have a different meaning: actuel (French), actual (Spanish), atual (Portuguese), attuale (Italian), aktuell (German), actueel (Dutch), aktuelan (Croatian).

Some Spanish false friends:
Carpeta (looks like the English word “carpet”) but in Spanish means a folder or briefcase.
Decepción (looks like “deception”) but means disappointment.
Desgracia (looks like “disgrace”) but means a mistake or misfortune.
Embarazada (looks like ‘’embarrassed”) but means pregnant.
En absoluto (looks like “absolutely”) but means not at all.
Éxito (looks like “exit) but means a hit or success.
Fábrica (looks like “fabric”) but means factory.
Largo (looks like “large”) but means long.
Once (looks like “once”) but means the number eleven.
Ropa (looks like “rope”) but means clothing.
Sensible (looks like “sensible”) but means sensitive.
Tuna (looks like “tuna”) but means an edible cactus.

Some German false friends:
(in English sounds like “alley”) but in German means avenue.
Die ambulanz (sounds like “ambulance”) but means outpatient department.
Das argument (sounds like “argument”) but means reasoned argument.
Die art (looks like “art”) but means type.
Das bad (looks like “bad”) but means bath.
Bang (looks like “bang”) but means frightened.
Bekommen (sounds like “to become”) but means “to receive”.
Die billion (looks like “billion”) but means trillion.
Die box (looks like “box”) but means stereo system speaker.
Der brand (looks like “brand”) but means fire.
Das etikett (sounds like “etiquette”) but means label.
Das formular (looks like “formula”) but means “to fill out a form”.
Familiär (looks like “familiar”) but means family-related.
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