Partial False Cognates (2022)

These are infinitely worse than regular False Cognates. Because False Cognates are always “you’re wrong”. A Partial False Cognate is “you’re right, but not in this context”.

Simply put, Partial False Cognates in Spanish are words that look like what they are in English, but carry a secondary meaning that can put a different spin or context on a sentence… thus making them really annoying. This is not a complete list because there are just SO many, so just be careful.

La asistencia -la asistencia means “assistance” as in “giving aid” to someone, but it also more commonly means “attendance”.

Asistir -asistir means “to assist” someone, but its most common meaning is “to attend” as in “to attend classes” or “to go to mass”.

La historia - Yes,la historia does refer to “history” as in the class and the study of past events.La historia also means “the story”; note thatla historia is a long story - a “short story” isel cuento.

Franco/a - To befranco/a refers to being “frank” as in honesty. It also refers to the Franks. But when you’re sayingzona franca it means “tax-free zone” and it sometimes means “clear”.

Oculto/a - It does mean “the occult” but it commonly means “hidden” fromocultar which is “to hide”.

El rayo - This does mean “a ray” as in a beam of light. It also means the “spoke” of a wheel. And more typically it means “a bolt” as in “lightning bolt”.

Colorado/a - This does mean “colored” in the sense of “colored hair” or dye but not in the sense of a person of color. Typically,colorado/a is a byword for “red”, whereponerse colorado/a means “to turn red, to blush”.

Negro/a - While meaning “black” as in the color, it also means a person of African descent. We would never use “Negroes” for black people but Spanish does (los negros) and it’s not nearly as offensive as it is in English.

El blanco - This does mean “blank” as in an empty space. Butel blanco means “a target”. And of courseblanco/a means “white”.

La sentencia -la sentencia does refer to a “sentence” but in legal situations - as in a “sentencing” or “handing down a sentence”. When referring to a “sentence” as in language or grammar, it’s lafrase“phrase” orla oración which means “sentence” or “clause” and sometimes “prayer”… Spanish is complicated sometimes.

La holanda -la Holanda means “Holland” a byword for the Netherlands. But when used aslas holandas it refers to sheets and linens of very high quality. I just looked it up. It also means “doily”. I think that’s swell.

El flamenco -el flamenco refers to “flamenco dancing”, but it also means “Flemish” as in a dialect of Dutch or to refer to someone from Flanders in older texts.

La audiencia - When you say la audiencia it sometimes means “the audience” but more often than not, it means “the listeners” since it’s related to “auditory” in etymology. In that sense it tends to mean “a hearing” or an “audience” to have someone examine your case. In most cases,the word you’re looking for isel público “the public, the audience”.

Publicar - This verb does mean “publish” as in “publication"but it also means "to make public” as in “divulge”, usually said of secrets.

La bomba - Yes, this word does mean “bomb”. It also means “pump”. Have you ever wondered whylos bomberos “firefighters” meant “bombers”? It doesn’t - it means “the people who work the pump”. Andla bombilla while meaning “little bomb” also means “lightbulb”.

El tipo - This word does mean “type” but it’s similar to German in thatel tipo means “the guy”.

Aprobar - This verb does mean “to approve” but it also means “to pass an exam”.

Probar - This verb does mean “prove”, but it also means “to test” or “to try” as in “probe”.

Bravo/a - This means “brave” but it also means “good at” like the Italianbravo andbrava. It also means “a brave” as in a combatant sobravo/a usually means “belligerent” or “reckless”.

El collar -El collar means a “collar” as in a dog’s collar or the collar of a shirt but it also means “a necklace” since it’s related toel cuello “the neck”.

La carta -La carta can mean “a chart” but it also means “a letter (written to somebody)” and sometimes “a card” althoughel naipeis preferred by many - those with families branching into French or Italian tend to usela carta more thanel naipe which is a word of Arabic descent.

El conflicto - It’s not usually used in cases for “battles"las batallas or anything to do with military.El conflicto is more usually used for a "strained situation” or “to be conflicted”.

Argentino/a - Yes,argentino/a does mean from Argentina. But it also is another word for “silvery” since that’s where Argentina got its name from;argentino/a is a synonym forplateado/a “silvery” lit. “covered inla plata (silver)”.

El plato -El plato is a plate as in a physical plate, but it also refers to “a dish” in the sense that gazpacho is a Spanish “dish”.

La copa - Does refer to a “cup” as in a “coffee cup” or a “wine glass”, but also means “a goblet” or the “Cup” for a sporting event.

La demanda - In some cases it does refer to a “demand” as in “a request” but in legal jargon,una demanda is “a lawsuit”;demandar usually means “to sue (someone)” whileexigir is “to demand (of someone)” and usually uses the subjunctive.

Mandar - It does mean “to mandate” in a very almost royal or imperial tone butmandar is also a synonym forenviar “to send”.

El mandato -El mandato often means a “mandate” but it also means “a command” andel mandatois sometimes used for the imperative tense of Spanish which is when you say something like <<Hazlo>> “Do it”

Estimar - It does mean “to estimate” but in a more general sense it means “to appreciate (someone)” or to hold someone in high regard. That’s why in formal letters you writeEstimado/afor “dear (formal)” instead ofquerido/a for “dear (informal)”

Americano/a -americano/asometimes means “someone from the United States” but in a very general sense it refers to anyone from the Americas - meaning a Canadian is American as much as a Haitian, a Venezuelan, a Jamaican or a Peruvian. To be very PC, since this could really annoy people if you get it wrong, sayestadounidense meaning “someone from the United States”

La tortilla -La tortillaas we know it is Mexican, a round thin food item that’s almost like a crepe. But,la tortilla means “little pie” and in Spain refers to a “quiche” or “frittata” typically made with potato and onion. Other than that,la tortilla means “an omelette”.

El dormitorio - Sometimes it means the “dormitory” of a school. In a general sense it means “a bedroom” because it means “sleeping room”.

Durmiente - This does mean “dormant” as in a volcano. It also means “sleeping” as in a sleeping person;La Bella Durmiente is Sleeping Beauty.

La sierra -La sierra does mean the Sierras as in a mountain range. It also literally means “a saw” as in a tool because mountains looked like saw teeth.

Elemental - This verb does mean “elementary” but rarely, people commonly userudimentario/a. In common Spanishelemental means “the elements” as in chemistry.

El físico - It does mean “physical” asfísico/abut it also means a “physicist”.

El feudo - Rarely means a “feud” which you can translate asel odio “hatred” or sometimesla venganza “vengeance”. It means “a fief” as in"feudal society".

El apogeo - The “apogee” in astronomy. This is a good word because it means “the highest point” or “the zenith” of something and so you’ll see it in history books like “at the height of the Roman Empire” -al apogeo del Imperio Romano.

Guardar - In some cases it does meandefender “to guard” but it also means “to keep” or “to look after”.

La gracia - It does mean “grace” often in a religious setting but it’s more common as “funny"tener la gracia ”(for something) to be funny" orser gracioso/a"(for someone) to be funny".

La granada - It does mean “a grenade” but it also means “a pomegranate”. La Granada is also a part of Spain noted for Muslim culture and architecture.

Humano - This does mean “human” in the sense ofser humano/a “human being” or the race of “mankind"humanidad. But when said about someone it often means "to be humane” literally espousing the idea that human beings aren’t human if they’re “inhumane”.

Intervenir - Very commonly it does mean “to intervene” or “intercede”. In a medical situation it means “to operate on”. In a legal sense it typically means “to confiscate”. And in a financial sense it means “to audit”.

Invertir - It does mean “to invert” but it also means “to invest” money or time.

El matrimonio - Rarely is this used as “matrimony” unless it’s religious “the sacrament of Matrimony”; in common Spanishel matrimonio means “the married couple”… often something like <<el matrimonio Garcia>> “The Garcia couple”

Paralizar - To “paralyze” but in a legal sense can mean “to stop” as in bring something to a halt.

Vulgar - Sometimes meaning “lewd” or “offensive”, in older timesvulgar meantel vulgo which were “the rabble” or the “unwashed masses”.

La planta - In some cases it means “a plant” as in a flower or a tree etc. but it also means “a floor” as in “a story of a building”.

Precioso/a - It means “precious” as in a gem etc. but also means “pretty” or “beautiful”.

Singular - It does mean “singular” as in “only one” but it is also used to mean “quaint” or “peculiar”.

Razonado/a - It does mean “reasoned” but it frequently means “annotated” or “with commentary”.

Raro/a - It can mean “rare” but it often means “strange”.

El suburbio - It does mean a “suburb” for the U.S. but in Latin America these are “slums” or “shantytowns”.

El gato - It means a “cat” until you’re talking machinery in which case it means a “car jack”.

La marca - It does mean “a mark” butla marca is frequently a “brand” as in a brand of cereal or shoes etc.

La sirena - Today it means “a siren” in the sense of an emergency siren. In the olden days it meant “a siren” as in women with voices that made sailors crash into rocks. It also means “mermaid” andLa Sirenita is the Little Mermaid.

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