Not all words that look and sound familiar to your language have the same meaning; watch out for these hilarious false friends in Spanish, French and German.

Have you ever come across a word in English that looks and sounds like something in your language, but has an entirely different meaning? False friends are words that might look and sound like words in another language, but whose meanings differ, completely. As if learning a language wasn’t tricky enough! This will help you boost your English language vocabulary with funny English tips about false friends.

False friends can be harmless, frustrating, or outright embarrassing. Sometimes words that look and sound the same come from the same roots, and share a meaning. Other times, they take a separate path in each language and become known as false friends. So before you get too relieved, be careful! Don’t trust these words blindly, you might end up making a faux pas. Here’s a list of the trickiest false friends:

Spanish False Friends

1. Embarazada vs. Embarrassing

Spare yourself the humiliation with this one – in Spanish, the word Embarazo means pregnancy, while Embarazada means pregnant.

2. Constipado vs. Constipated

Even though the Spanish are quite open people, they don’t usually speak up about their bowels. To be constipated means to have blocked bowels, while a constipado is a common cold in Spanish.

3. Emocionado vs. Emotional

Emocionado can mean both excited and moved in Spanish, which is tricky, as it doesn’t translate to emotional in all contexts. While you can get emocionado on a roller coaster, you wouldn’t get emotional on a roller coaster!

French False Friends

4. Douche vs. Douche

If you call someone a douche in English, you mean they’re obnoxious. In French, douche means shower.

5. Sale vs. Sale

If you see something that is sale in French, it doesn’t mean it’s sold at a discount, but that it’s dirty.

6. Jolie vs. Jolly

If you call someone jolly in English you’re complementing their happy and uplifting attitude. In French, jolie is still a compliment, but it means pretty. 

German False Friends

7. Das Gift vs. Gift

Das Gift in German means poison/toxic! Not the best present for someone’s birthday.

8. Winken vs. Wink

Everyone can winken but not everyone can wink. In English a wink is a cheeky or flirty gesture that some people can do by closing one eye. In German, winken just means wave.

9. Die Art vs. Art

If you see die art near a strange word, it’s not what you’re thinking. In German die art means type/kind/sort and has nothing to do with art as a form of expression. 

Italian False Friends

10. Annoiare vs. To Annoy

These two are quite the opposite! If somebody is annoying you and you use the word annoiare it means you’re board. Careful because they’ll just find more creative ways of annoying you. 

11. Baldo vs. Bald

While calling someone bald in English can be offensive, in Italian boldo is courageous.

11. Caldo vs. Cold

Another case of direct opposites – in Italian, caldo actually means hot. 

Find out more ways to learn English online, or join a course in Malta – [email protected] for more information. 

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