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The eleven most annoying Spanish false friends of all time

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The eleven most annoying Spanish false friends of all time
Photo: Flequi/Flickr
16:03 CET+01:00
Spanish is full of false friends and can sometimes be a linguistic minefield. The Local takes a look at some of the worst offenders.

At first glance, English and Spanish can look and sound pretty similar, right?

So many words in the two languages resemble each other that it's easy to get complacent — that's autosatisfacción by the way, not complacencia.

In fact, the deeper you dig, the more treacherous the minefield appears for speakers of both languages.

Who hasn't got confused between the English sensible (sensato) and the Spanish sensible (sensitive)?

And is there any native speaker of English who has never accidentally said librería (bookshop) when they meant library (biblioteca)?

Here's a look at eleven of the most annoying false friends for both English speakers of Spanish and native speakers of Spanish using English.

Photo: Flequi/Flickr

Unless the father is a close family member, there's nothing really embarrassing about being pregnant. English and Spanish people sometimes mistake embarazo (pregnancy) or embarazada (pregnant) with embarrasment and embarrassing because they sound so similar.

Photo: Woodleywonderworks/Flickr

Anybody who has taught English to Spanish kids will probably be familiar with this one. It's not the Spanish equivalent of 'the dog ate my homework', kids just assume that folder in English is carpet, like carpeta in Spanish

Photo: Jeffrey Beall/ Flickr

Even though the Spanish are fairly straight-talking people, they don't usually speak up about their blocked up bowels. A constipado is a common cold in Spanish.


Photo: specialoperations/Flickr

Even though they wear their hearts on their sleeves, Spaniards rarely tear up when they find something exciting. This false friend arises from the double meaning of emocionado in Spanish, which can be both excited and moved.

Photo: wetwebwork/Flickr

Uh!That's got to hurt! Well, we think they mean to say lenses(lentillas)rather than lentils (lentejas).


Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr

Oh dear! Everybody in Spain has been 'molested' at some point in time. Some people are molested several times a day! Jokes aside, molestar is to bother in Spanish and not to sexually harrass as it is in English.


Photo: osuspecialcollections/Flickr

Even if you find cadavers particularly impressive, it's not advisable to shout this out in public. Casualidad is coincidence in Spanish, although the word sounds a lot more like casualty.


Photo: Maxime Guilbot / Flickr

It's always useful to have an escape route handy, but it still sounds pretty weird to wish someone all the exits they deserve. Exito is the Spanish word for success.


Photo: osuspecialcollections/Flickr

Where there's smoke there's fire, but usually you call the firemen and not the air force. A bombero is a firefighter in Spanish.

Do you have any preservatives?

Photo: Jose / Flickr

There's no denying you need chemistry in love, but we're not too sure where preservatives fit in the whole equation. Spanish speakers sometimes assume preservativo (condom) is translated into English as preservative.

Are you ready to make a compromise?
Photo: nejron/Depositphotos
It may seem natural to expend your Spanish girlfriend to meet you halfway on certain issues but don't go asking her for a ‘compromiso' unless you are sure you are ready to take that next step. Compriso means an obligation or commitment rather than a compromise (componenda).



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