You’re pregnant? Don’t fall for these 9 false cognates

If you are learning Spanish, or planning on travelling to a country that speaks Spanish there are many things to remember. One of these is cognates. These similar-sounding words can be your best friends until you run into false-cognates, where though the words may sound the same, they have entirely different meanings. Here are 9 you should definitely be aware of:

  • Embarazada—Pregnant
    Probably the most famous of all false cognates, the words ‘embarazada’ and ‘embarassed’ may seem similar, but if you really want to say you’re embarrassed the correct word is ‘avergonzado’, an important distinction—otherwise you might get yourself into a bit of an awkward misunderstanding, and just make the embarrassment worse!

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  • Éxito—success
    If you are looking for the door, and ask for the ‘éxito’ people might nod and agree, but it won’t be the salida.
  • Mayor—greater, older
    If you think you hear someone talking about the ‘mayor’ in Spanish, don’t get too confused, as the meaning you are thinking of is alcalde. ‘Mayor’ is used in a variety of contexts in Spanish as a comparative adjective.
  • Delito—crime
    The word ‘delito’ might sound a lot like ‘delight’, but doesn’t actually deal with something positive, an important distinction to remember!
  • Jubilación—retirement
    When trying to express ‘jubilation’ you might want to try for ‘júbilo’ instead (also a cognate)! However, if you are excited for retirement, you might find this translation perfect.
  • Arena—sand
    If planning on going to a stadium or other arena of sorts, don’t say ‘arena’ though it may seem obvious, as you’ll be more on topic for the beach, talking about the substance that gets stuck in all your nooks and crannies by the end of a day.

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  • Excitado—aroused
    This is an important one! If you are excited about something, be careful how you express yourself, as ‘excitado’ is probably not the feeling you’re looking to convey. The correct sentiment in this case would be ‘entusiasmado’.
  • Efectivo—cash
    This is a useful word to know if you didn’t already, but if something is in ‘efectivo’ it’s not referring to its efficiency, but to cash money. To talk about something being ‘effective’ you would say ‘efficaz’.
  • Bizarro—brave, gallant
    Here’s a funny false cognate to end the list! If you’re trying to say something is ‘bizarre’ don’t go for ‘bizarro’, as you’re more likely to be referring to a knight in shining armor instead of strangeness.


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