Last modified on 24 May 2014, at 18:21

false friend


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false friend (plural false friends)

  1. (linguistics, idiomatic) A word in a foreign language that bears a deceptive resemblance to a word in one's own language, but has a different meaning.

Usage notesEdit

  • Examples:
    • The French nous demandons means "we ask", but to English-speakers it sounds like "we demand", which can turn negotiation into confrontation.
    • The Spanish word embarazada means "pregnant", not "embarrassed" — "Estoy embarazada" means "I am pregnant", not "I am embarrassed".
    • The German word will (want) is not a future tense marker — "Ich will gehen" means "I want to go", not "I will go".
      • Same for Dutch and Afrikaans, "Ik wil gaan" and "Ek wil gaan" mean "I want to go".
    • The Italian word triviale (vulgar) does not mean trivial, though the two words do share a common Latin root (trivium that in Latin means crossroad) "Questo è triviale" means "This is in bad taste", not "This is obvious".
    • The Danish (and also Swedish) word gift does not mean gift as in present, but can mean a verb form of to marry; Han er gift means He is married. The word for gift is gave, which is close to the past tense of the verb giver. If du gav en gave, you gave a gift. Likewise, if du gav en gift, you actually gave poison.



See alsoEdit