There are many Spanish words that sound similar and mean the same thing in English.  ‘Friendly’ Spanish words are great because they sound the same or similar to their English counterpart.  They are also a positive for increasing your vocabulary as they are easy to remember:  Restaurante, medicina, dramático, invatación, dentista, hotel, central, atractivo, presidente, importante, just to name a few.  You still have to learn how to pronounce them but remembering a friendly Spanish word is easy due to its similar meaning in English.

But beware!  There a lot of Spanish words that are not friendly.  The so-called “False Friends”.  These are words that sound similar to an English word but can mean something entirely different.   Let’s look at a few of the more common false Spanish friends.  

Asistir– Does not mean to assist.  It means to attend.  ¿Vas a asistir la fiesta esta noche? Are you going to attend the party tonight?  If you need to say ‘assist’ use ayudar.   ¿Puede ayudarme?  Can you help me?

Una Carpeta – Is not a carpet.  Carpeta can mean a file folder or a brief case.  Póngalo en la carpeta.  Put it in the folder.  If you want to say ‘carpet’ use alfombra.  No lo derrame en la alfombra.  Don’t spill it on the carpet.

La Sopa- Does not mean soap.  It means soup.  La sopa sabía muy sabrosa.  The soup tasted very good.  If you need to say ‘soap’ use jabón.  El jabón es para el baño.  The soap is for the bathroom.

Éxito- Does not mean an exit.  It means success.  Espero que tenga mucho éxito con su examen de español.  I hope you have a lot of success with your Spanish exam. If you are looking for an exit look for a  ‘salida’.¿Dónde está la salida más cerca?  Where is the nearest exit?

Largo- Does not mean large.  It means long.  El viaje fue muy largo.  The trip was very long.  If you describe something as ‘large’ use grande.  La casa es muy grande.  The house is very large.

Recordar- Does not mean to record.  It means to remember or to remind.  No pude recordar el nombre del hotel.  I could not remember the name of the hotel.   Use apuntar, for writing something down.  Use grabar to record a cd or a video. To take notes, use tomar apuntes.   Hay que tomar apuntes para recodar como hacerlo.  One must take notes in order to remember how to do it.  

Complexión- Does not refer to your complexion.  It refers to one’s physical build.  A man with a strong physical build.  Un hombre de complexión fuerte.   Use tez or cutis to refer to complexion.

Fábrica- Does not mean fabric.  Fábrica means a factory in Spanish.  My father used to work for the auto factory.  Mí papá trabajaba para la fábrica de autos.  To say ‘fabric’ use tela or tejido.  Tejido also means woven.

Ropa- Most of us know that this does not mean a rope.  It means clothes.  My maid washed my clothes yesterday:  Mí empleada lavó la ropa ayer.  A rope in Spanish is una cuerda.  

Boda- Means a wedding.  Were you going to the wedding? ¿Ibas a la boda?  If you want to refere to one’s body use el cuerpo.  

There are many more Spanish false friends.  Remember a Spanish word may sound similar to an English word, but does not necessarily mean the same.  When you run across a new Spanish word that sounds like an English word, look it up or check with your Spanish teacher to be sure.

Hope this helps!


Hi, my name is Fred.  My background in Spanish is a year in high school
(long ago) and the last five years taking private lessons almost daily, in
the States and in Panamá'.    I am not yet fluent, but maybe I can pass on
to you some tips to help your Spanish learning experience.