Amigos Desleales


Many Spanish words can be recognized because of their similarity to English words. However, in some cases one can be led wildly astray. Here is a list of some (103, currently) of these "false friends."

actual is current, not actual
adicto is devoted, not addicted
adolecer is to fall ill, not to be adolescent
alumno is a student, not an alumnus
apreciar is to assess, not to appreciate
aproximar is to come close, not to approximate
asistir is to be present, not to assist
bala is a bullet, not a ball
barro is mud, not a bar
bastardilla is italics, not a little female bastard
bizarro is brave, not bizarre
blindar is to armor plate, not to blind
bravo is excellent, not brave (except for soldiers)
brillo is brilliance, not steel wool
bronco is rough, not a horse unless unbroken
bucle is a curl, not a buckle
buque is a ship, not a bouquet
cañón is a cannon, not a canyon
casualmente is by chance, not casually
colegio is high school, not college
compás is rhythm, beat--seldom for drawing circles
competencia is competition, not competence, except legally
compromiso is a commitment, not a compromise
confinar is to border, not to confine
constipado is stuffed up with a cold, not constipated
consumar is to complete, not to consume (which is consumir)
contestar is to answer, not to contest
conveniente is suitable, not convenient
corneta is a bugle, not a cornet
costumbre is a custom, not a costume
crapuloso is drunken, not crappy
crudo is raw, not crude
cuerdo is sane, healthy, not a cord
declararse also means to break out, not to declare itself
desmayarse is to faint, not to be dismayed
desgracia is bad luck, not disgrace
devolución is return, not devolution
dilapidar is to squander, not to dilapidate
disgustado is annoyed, not disgusted
diana is reveille, not a camp follower
duelo is grief, not a duel
egregio is eminent, not egregious
embarazada is pregnant, not embarrassed
embarazado is hindered, not embarrassed
ensalzar is to praise, not to salt
esposas are (sometimes) handcuffs, not spouses
estacado is palisaded, not staked
eventual is fortuitous, not eventual
excusado is unnecessary, not excused
fastidioso is annoying, not fastidious
gentilidad is heathenism, not gentility
guerrilla is a partisan band, not a guerrilla fighter
honesto is decent, not honest
hulla is soft coal, not a hull
hurtar is to steal, not to hurt
ignorar is not to know, not to ignore
inaudito is unheard-of, not inaudible
indigno is unworthy, not indignant
infante is an infantryman or prince, not a baby
informe is shapeless, not informative
insensato is stupid, not insensate
instancia is a request, not an instance
intervención is supervision, not intervention
intimar is to declare with authority, not to be intimate
invadeable is unfordable, not invadable
jubilación is retirement, not jubilation
mama is a breast, not momma (which is mamá)
molestar is to annoy, not to molest
moroso is slow, not morose
muerto is a corpse, not death
nudo is a knot, not a nude
obsequio is a gift, not an obsequience
parada is a stop, not a parade
piscador is a cotton picker, not a fisherman
pitanza is a daily ration, not a pittance
plausible is commendable, not plausible
preciso is necessary, not precise
preocupado is worried, not preoccupied
presupuesto is an estimate, not a presupposition
pretender is to try or claim, not to pretend
prevención is foresight, not prevention
pincel is an artist's brush, not a pencil
proporcionar is to supply or lend, not to proportion
providencia is foresight, not providence (unless divine)
puerco is filthy or dirty, not pork (also a pig)
rancho is a mess hall, not a ranch
rapar is to cut close, not to rape
ratón is a mouse, not a rat
rebato is an alarm, not a rebate
rodeo is a detour, not a rodeo
salvar is to cross (a river), not to salve or save
sano is healthy, not sane
sensible is sensitive, not sensible
sincerarse is to vindicate oneself, not to be sincere
sorteo is a drawing, raffle or coin toss, not a sorting
susceptible is capable, not susceptible
suceso is a happening, not a success
tabla is a plank, not a table
temple is temper, not a temple
tulipa is a lampshade, not a tulip
tuna is a prickly pear, not a fish
valentón is a braggart, not a valentine
verificarse is to happen, not to verify itself

Not included above are the English words that look like Spanish, but aren't, such as desperado, avocado, bandito, conquistadors, lasso and others. A large number of words that sometimes mean what is suggested by the English, but where the connotation is usually different, are not included. Also, some words have been attracted into alternative English meanings, and these meanings are not recognized here. There are, of course, many others--this is just a random selection. Don't be discouraged, however: most words do mean about what the English suggests, and this is a great help and comfort.


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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 15 July 2001
Last revised 17 November 2001