85 Spanish Cognates: Learn Spanish Cognates & False Friends with Examples

Did you know you can already speak Spanish? At least, to some extent. How?

Well, you can use Spanish cognates listed in this blog post. Spanish cognates are something that you can integrate into your Spanish sentences anytime and you’ll have no problem in communication.

Why?

Spring Spanish (one of my projects) made a video on some more Spanish cognates. Juan will tell you everything you need to know:

And now, time for an explanation about cognates, perfect cognates, near-perfect ones and even differences between Spanish and English.

What are cognates?

Effortless Answers

Cognates are words in two languages that have a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation because they share a common origin.

The Spanish word “familia” and the English word “family” are cognates. They both come from the Latin word “familia“. This makes it easy to recognize them between the two languages. And if you learn these cognates, you’ll quickly expand your vocabulary.

Cognates can be categorized into a few types based on their degree of similarity and whether they have kept their original meanings. Let’s define them quickly!

  1. True Cognates:
  • These words look and sound similar in both languages and have the same meaning. For example:
    • English: “Animal” – Spanish: “Animal
    • Both words come from the Latin word “animal.”
  1. Partial Cognates:
  • These words may look and sound similar in both languages but have slightly different meanings. They might be context-dependent.
    • English: “Library” – Spanish: “Librería
    • While “library” means a place with books to borrow, “librería” means a bookstore in Spanish.
  1. False Cognates (False Friends):
  • These words look similar in both languages but have completely different meanings. For example:
    • English: “Embarrassed” – Spanish: “Embarazada
    • Embarazada” actually means “pregnant,” not “embarrassed.”

Learn the difference between these types because then you can avoid being embarrassed 🙂

1. Perfect Spanish cognates

And now, after explaining them, let’s go over some of the most common perfect Spanish cognates. Do you see them?

A blue glossy sphere with an equal sign (=) in the center symbolizing spanish cognates

You already know some Spanish 😉

SpanishEnglish
ActorActor
AnimalAnimal
ÁreaArea
ArtificialArtificial
BananaBanana
BalanceBalance
BásicoBasic
BicicletaBicycle
CámaraCamera
CentralCentral
ChocolateChocolate
ClaseClass
ColorColor
CombustiónCombustion
ComplejoComplex
ConclusiónConclusion
ControlControl
DecisiónDecision
DirectoDirect
DoctorDoctor
EditorEditor
ElectrónicoElectronic
EspecialSpecial
EstaciónStation
ExactoExact
FamiliarFamiliar
FavoritoFavorite
FinalFinal
GeneralGeneral
HospitalHospital
IdeaIdea
ImportanteImportant
InteligenteIntelligent
InvitarInvite
MáquinaMachine
MatemáticasMathematics
MemoriaMemory
MotorMotor
MúsicaMusic
NaturalNatural
NormalNormal
NecesarioNecessary
ÓperaOpera
ParquePark
PerfectoPerfect
PersonalPersonal
PolicíaPolice
ProbableProbable
RadioRadio
RegularRegular
RestauranteRestaurant

In a real-life example, this could look like:

Ana: Hola, Luis. ¿Cómo estás?
(Hello, Luis. How are you?)
Luis: Hola, Ana. Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?
(Hi, Ana. I’m fine, thanks. And you?)
Ana: Estoy bien. ¿Qué piensas del nuevo restaurante en el parque?
(I’m good. What do you think about the new restaurant in the park?)
Luis: Me gustaría invitarte. Dicen que tienen el mejor chocolate.
(I’d like to invitar you. They say they have the best chocolate.)
Ana: ¡Eso suena perfecto! Nos vemos el sábado.
(That sounds perfect! See you on Saturday.)
Luis: Nos vemos. Adiós.
(See you. Goodbye.)

2. Partial cognates in Spanish (near-perfect cognates)

Partial cognates or near-perfect cognates can still be familiar to you but they might have a slightly different meaning than what you would initially think of in English.

A pair of wavy equal signs drawn in black on a white background illustrating near-perfect spanish cognates

So, it’s best to double-check them but we’re pretty sure that native speakers would still understand you.

SpanishEnglishNotes
ActualActualActual” often means “current” or “present.”
AsistirAssistAsistir” also means “to attend.”
BizarroBizarreBizarro” means “brave” or “gallant.”
ComplejoComplexComplejo” can also mean a physical “complex” or “compound.”
IntroducirIntroduceIntroducir” also means “to insert.”
LargoLargeLargo” means “long,” not necessarily “large.”
MatrículaMatriculateMatrícula” often means “registration,” especially for classes.
PretenderPretendPretender” means “to seek” or “to intend.”
ÚltimamenteUltimatelyÚltimamente” means “lately” or “recently.”
SensibleSensibleSensible” means “sensitive.”
SucederSucceedSuceder” mostly means “to happen.”
ActualizarActualizeActualizar” means “to update.”
ApologíaApologyApología” also means “defense” or “eulogy.”
ArgumentoArgumentArgumento” also means “plot” or “reasoning.”
ConstanteConstantConstante” can also mean “persistent” or “enduring.”
ExperimentarExperimentExperimentar” also means “to experience.”
PreservarPreservePreservar” means “to protect.”
ReferenciaReferenceReferencia” can also mean “referral.”
ResponderRespondResponder” means “to answer.”
TrampaTrapTrampa” also means “trick” or “cheat.”

Let’s check this example:

Clara:
Hola, Javier. ¿Cómo estás?
(Hello, Javier. How are you?)
Javier:
Hola, Clara. Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?
(Hi, Clara. I’m fine, thanks. And you?)
Clara:
Estoy bien. ¿Vas a asistir a la clase de matemáticas hoy?
(I’m good. Are you going to attend the math class today?)
Javier:
Sí, me parece complejo pero interesante.
(Yes, it seems complex but interesting.)
Clara:
Últimamente he estado estudiando mucho.
(Lately I have been studying a lot.)
Javier:
Yo también. Intentaré introducir nuevos métodos para estudiar.
(Me too. I will try to introduce new methods for studying.)

3. False cognates in Spanish (False friends)

And here’s the trick!

False cognates are words that are really similar to their English counterparts but have a COMPLETELY different meaning. These words and phrases are also called false friends in the language learning journey, because they aren’t really your friends – they are basically nice to your face, but stab you in the back (figuratively, of course)!

one red not equal sign, symbolizing equality and inequality, with the keyword 'Spanish cognates' in the context

The following table will clear all of these misunderstandings related to Spanish words. If we were to advise only one thing from this blog post, it would be to learn these words and phrases with the help of lexical chunks.

SpanishEnglishNotes
EmbarazadaEmbarrassedEmbarazada” means “pregnant.”
FábricaFabricFábrica” means “factory.”
SopaSoapSopa” means “soup.”
ÉxitoExitÉxito” means “success.”
RopaRopeRopa” means “clothes.”
LecturaLectureLectura” means “reading.”
ConstipadoConstipatedConstipado” means “having a cold.”
DecepciónDeceptionDecepción” means “disappointment.”
MolestarMolestMolestar” means “to bother.”
ParientesParentsParientes” means “relatives.”
GroseríaGroceryGrosería” means “rudeness” or “vulgarity.”
CarpetaCarpetCarpeta” means “folder.”
ColegioCollegeColegio” means “high school.”
SucesoSuccessSuceso” means “event” or “incident.”

And look out for the false friends in these Spanish sentences:

Marta:
Hola, Pedro. ¿Cómo estás?
(Hello, Pedro. How are you?)
Pedro:
Hola, Marta. Estoy un poco constipado.
(Hi, Marta. I have a bit of a cold.)
Marta:
¡Vaya! Espero que te mejores pronto. ¿Has leído la lectura para la clase de historia?
(Wow! I hope you get better soon. Have you read the reading for history class?)
Pedro:
Sí, pero me pareció un poco aburrida. Además, tengo un suceso familiar este fin de semana.
(Yes, but I found it a bit boring. Besides, I have a family event this weekend.)
Marta:
Espero que todo salga bien. No olvides llevar ropa cómoda.
(I hope everything goes well. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothes.)
Pedro:
Gracias, lo haré. Nos vemos el lunes.
(Thanks, I will. See you on Monday.)
Marta:
Nos vemos. Cuídate.
(See you. Take care.)

Practice the most common abbreviations in Spanish with practice exercises

Fill in the blanks with the correct phrases!

This was just a sneak peek! If you want to practice more, you can sign up to our email list, and you’ll get access to our Full Practice Worksheets!

Learn common Spanish cognates and other Spanish vocabulary with Conversation Based Chunking

No matter which cognates you choose to learn, the perfect ones, the near-perfect cognates or the false friends, we have the method to offer you.

It’s called Conversation Based Chunking. It’s a method that focuses on the natural building blocks of the language instead of focusing too much on boring Spanish grammar rules. If you click the button below, you’ll get your first Spanish Chunking Starter Pack: in it, you’ll find my favourite resources to learn Spanish, an essential Spanish Chunking Kit, access to practice worksheets and a lot more!

What are you waiting for?!

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