False Friends to English Words

Compiled by  Sam C. Chan

Last Updated: August 16, 2007


DE  German
ES  Spanish
FR  French
GA  Gaelic
IR  Irish
IT  Italian
NL  Dutch
PL  Polish
PT  Portuguese
SC  Scottish

see: Country Codes

False friends (faux amis) are words that look or sound similar in different languages, but actually mean different things. This list is by no means comprehensive. It just represents what I have come across and is mostly French centric. If you know of some interesting ones to add, or have corrections to make, please contact me.

Some notable faux amis with hilarious irony: In Swedish, "lust" means wish/intent, and "sex" means six.  In Czech, "host" means guest. In French, "sale" means filthy dirty. In Dutch: "monster" means sample, "worst" means sausage, and "gift" means poison!


Word Resembles in English Actual Meaning
actuel (FR)
actueel (NL)
actual current/topical/relevant
actualités (FR) actualities news, current affairs
avertissement (FR)
advertência (ES)
avvertenza (IT)
advertisement warning (commonly seen in multi-lingual manuals of products)
After (DE) after anus
agencé (FR) agency laid out or arranged
ail (FR) ail (sicken) garlic
aimer (FR) to aim to love or to like
aire (FR) air area
allure (FR) allure speed, bearing; allure
ancien (FR) ancient before the noun, usually means "former"; after the noun, usually means "old"
angel (NL) angle spike
apologie (FR)
apología (ES, PT)
apology praise, defense (this is a less common meaning of the English word "apology," as in Plato's Apology; or "The senator is an apologist for the party's stance." I've often seen something like: "I'm not an apologist for Apple Computers, and not a cheerleader for them either...", which indicates the writer thinks apologist implies regrets—a common mistake.)
appoint (FR) appoint (extra) contribution or help
arts (NL) arts doctor, physician
Ass / As (DE)
asso (FR)
ass / as ace
assortie (FR) assorted matched, matching
assister (FR) assist attend
attendre (FR) attend to wait for; to expect
attention (FR) attention precaution, notice, aid, care
avocat (FR)
advocaat (NL)
advocate attorney/barrister, avocado (FR)
banc (FR)
bank (NL)
bank bench, couch (NL)
bite (FR) bite offensive: dick (slang for penis)
blesser (FR) bless injure, hurt, bite
Boot (DE)
boot (NL)
boot boat
brand (NL)
Brand (DE)
brand fire (the emergency)
bras (FR) bra(ssiere)s arm (body part)
bride (FR) bride bridle, reins
brief (DE) brief letter (mail)
brillant (FR) brilliant shiny, glitter
brushing (FR) to brush a blow-dry (hairdresser's)
brutaal (NL) brutal bold
bulle (FR) bull bubble
cake (FR) cake fruitcake (actual cake in FR is gâteau)
calzone/calzoni (IT)
caleçon (FR)
calzone underwear
camera (FR) (stills) camera movie camera
camera (IT) camera bed)room (camera in IT is macchina fotografica)
can (ES) can dog
car (FR) car bus or coach; for, because
casserole (FR) casserole saucepan
casino (IT) casino brothel (casinò is gambling house in IT)
caution (FR)
cauzione (IT)
caution bail
chair (FR) chair flesh
champ (FR) champ field
champignon (FR) champiñón (ES) champion mushroom
chance (FR) chance luck
chat (FR) chat cat
chef (FR)
chef (NL)
Chef (DE)
chef boss or chief (in FR, occasionally means "cook" or "head cook")
chute (FR) chute fall (dropping)
coin (FR) coin corner
coin (SC GA) coin dogs
collège (FR) college secondary school (UK/HK), junior high school (US)
comme (FR)
come (IT)
come like, how
come (ES) come (he/she) eats
concussion (FR) concussion misappropriation of public funds
conscience (FR) conscience consciousness, awareness
consistant FR) consistent consist, dense, complete (adjective)
conviction (FR) conviction strong belief (never in criminal sense)
corne (FR)
corno (PT)
cuerno (ES)
corn horn (corn in FR is  maïs)
couffin (FR) coffin baby basket
court (FR) court (legal) run
crayon (FR) crayon pencil
culte (FR) cult worship (lieu de culte = place of worship)
damit (DE) damn it with it, so that
décevoir (FR) to deceive to disappoint
demandar (ES) to demand to sue
demander (FR)
domandare (IT)
to demand to ask or request
desservir (FR) to deserve to do (s.o.) a disservice; to clean (the table); to lead into (a station); to minister to (a parish)
dessin (FR) design drawing
die (DE) (to) die the [feminine and plural article; e.g.: die Ehefrau (the wife), die Häuser (the houses)]
dire (FR) dire (disaster) to say, to tell
douche (FR)
Dusche (DE)
douche shower (bath)
éditeur (FR)
editore (IT)
editor publisher
ego (Latin) ego I
élève (FR) eleven pupil or student
elf (DE, NL) elf eleven
empirer (FR) empire to become worse
émail (FR)
Email (DE)
email, e-mail enamel; Herald. color
intitolare (IT) entitle (to) title, call, give a name
engin (FR) engine any sort of moving plant or mechanism - usually large
entrée (FR) entrée (US: main dish) entrance, entry, first course; entrée (Brit.)
estate (IT) estate summer
étiquette (FR)
etichetta (IT)
etiket (NL)
etiquette label (can also mean etiquette in FR/ES)
éventuellement (FR)
eventueel (NL)
eventually maybe, perhaps, possibly
fabrique (FR)
Fabrik (DE)
fabric factory
fart (FR) fart wax
fatal (DE) fatal unfavorable
fear (SC GA) fear man
figure (FR) figure face
file (FR) file line; queue (in computing)
file (NL) file tailback
fin (FR) fin end, fine, sharp
fort (FR) fort strong (but can also mean fort)
four (FR) four oven
génial (FR) genial genius (as an adjective)
Gift (DE)
gift (NL)
gift poison
glace (FR) glass ice, ice cream, or mirror
grape (FR) grape cluster
grippe (FR)
Grippe (DE)
grip or gripe influenza
groin (FR) groin snout
Gymnasium (DE)
gymnasium (NL)
gym(nasium) high school, grammar school
haïr (FR) hair to hate
half (DE) half helped
handel (NL)
Handel (DE)
handle commerce, trade
hat (DE) hat (he/she/it) has
hell (DE) hell bright
her (DE) her ago, away
home (GA) home man
Hose (DE) hose (pair of) trousers
host (Czech) host guest
inhabité (FR) inhabited uninhabited
irons (FR) irons we will go
Ísland (Icelandic)
Islande (FR)
IJsland (NL)
island Iceland
joli (FR) jolly nice, cute
journée (FR) journey day, daytime
kind (NL)
Kind (DE)
kind child
kin (NL)
Kinn (DE)
kin chin
Last (DE)
last (NL)
last load, burden
limoen (NL) lemon lime
lente (NL) Lent Spring
liar (ES)
lier (FR)
to lie
to tie / bind
librería (ES)
libreria (IT)
librairie (FR)
library bookstore
lied (NL)
Lied (DE)
lied song
lime (FR) lime file (tool)
Limo (DE) limo lemonade
limon (FR) lemon alluvium
List (DE)
list (NL)
list cunning, artfulness, ruse
log (DE) log lied
loop (NL) loop walk
lust (Swedish)
Lust (DE)
lust wish, intent
luxure (FR) luxury lust
made (NL) made maggot
magazzino (IT)
magazijn (NL)
magazine storehouse in NL and Swedish; also warehouse in IT
magot (FR) maggot bundle, treasure
main (FR) main hand
male (IT) male evil (n.), bad, wicked, evil (adj.)
man (DE) man one (impersonal subject pronoun)
mano (ES) man hand
marron (FR) maroon brown (as an adjective), sweet chestnut (as a noun)
máscara (ES) mascara mask
misère (FR) misery or miser poverty
mode (FR, NL)
Mode (DE)
moda (IT)
mode haute couture (high fashion)
monster (NL) monster sample
nein (DE) nine (phonetic) no
Novelle (DE)
novella (IT)
novela (ES)
nouvelle (FR)
novel short story, novella (in FR also new, news item)
of (NL) of/off or, (whether, either in combination with or)
ombrelle (FR) umbrella sunshade
on (FR) on we, nondescript subject (cf. passive "one")
ours (FR) ours a bear
pain (FR) pain bread
phrase (FR) phrase sentence
physicien (FR) physician physicist
portemanteau (FR) portmanteau coat hanger
pourchasser (FR) to purchase to hunt about, to chase about
prévenir (FR) prevent warn
preservativo (IT)
Präservativ (DE)
préservatif (FR)
preservative condom; also "preservative" in ES
prune (FR) prune plum
pub (FR) pub (public house) short for publicité (advertisement), like "ad" in English
pure (IT) pure however
queue (FR) queue tail, penis (slang), queue,
raisin (FR) raisin grape
râpe (FR) rape grater, shredder
récipient (FR) recipient food storage
red (NL) red save
rein (FR) rein kidney
resorte (ES)
ressort (FR)
resort (noun) spring (coiled elastic device); can also be means, as in "means to an end"
Rest (DE)
reste (FR)
rest stay, remainder (cf. "The rest is silence"); in PL also "change" (returned from a purchase)
résumé (FR)
resumen (ES)
resume (to continue) summary
ride (FR) ride (horse) wrinkle, ripple
Rock (DE) rock skirt
room (NL) room cream
sale (FR) sale filthy, dirty
sale (IT) sale salt
sale (ES) sale goes out
sang (FR) sang blood
sex (Swedish)
sex (Latin)
sex six;
(PT) sixth. Often refers to the 6th day or Friday
son (FR) son sound; bran; his/her (masculine thing possessed)
supporter (FR) support can stand, deal with
stage (FR) stage internship
supplier (FR) to supply to beg, to beseech
surgeon (FR) surgeon basal shoot, sucker
sympathique (FR) sympathetic likeable, friendly
trombone (FR) trombone trombone, or paperclip
truc (FR) truck stuff
van (NL) van of
ventilateur (FR), Ventilator (DE) ventilator (medical) fan
versatile (FR) versatile capricious
vet (NL) vet (veterinarian) fat
war (DE) war was
was (NL) was laundry
was (DE) was what
wer (DE) where who
worst (NL)
Wurst (DE)
worst sausage



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