Italian False Cognates

An Italian False Cognate, also known as a False Friend, is an Italian word that looks like an English word, but has a different meaning.

If the Italian word is spelled somewhat differently than the English word, this can help you realize that this is truly a foreign word, and probably not related to the English word it looks something like.

ENGLISH -- ITALIAN

around -- attorno

at -- alle

boss -- capo

cough (n) -- tosse

counter -- banco

envelope -- busta

expensive -- caro

fat -- grasso/a

field -- campo

hand -- mano

hot -- caldo

mice -- topi

this -- questo

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Some Italian False Cognates look exactly like an English word, but actually mean another English word that is spelled somewhat like the Italian word.

It can be helpful if the Italian False Cognate has a different pronunciation than the English word it is spelled like -- because that makes it sound different than the English word it is spelled like, and helps make it clear that it is actually a foreign word.

ENGLISH -- ITALIAN -- [SAY ITALIAN]

badly -- male -- [MAH-leh]

be -- stare -- [STAH-reh]

blackberries -- more -- [MOH-reh]

bread -- pane -- [PAH-neh]

dog -- cane -- [KAH-neh]

floor -- piano -- [‘piano’]

give -- dare -- [DAH-reh]

hello -- salve -- [SAHL-veh]

how -- come -- [KOH-meh]

room (hotel) -- camera -- [KAH-meh-rah]

room (hotel) -- stanza -- [STAHN-tsah]

summer -- estate -- [ehs-TAH-teh]

two -- due -- [DOO-eh]

where -- dove -- [DOH-veh]

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ITALIAN WORDS RESEMBLING TWO ENGLISH WORDS

Italian that somewhat resembles two English words can be helpful or misleading. For example, the Italian word ‘ARROSTO’:

ARROSTO looks most like the English word ‘ARREST’, which is not what it means.

ARROSTO looks less like the English word ‘ROASTED’, which is what it means.

So when seeing this Italian word, the natural first reaction of an English-speaker who does not know Italian is to mistakenly think it is related to ‘ARREST’ in English.

With Italian words that are ambiguous in this way, the resemblance to English could work against you -- rather than help you understand and remember the Italian word more easily (as is true of other Italian words that resemble English words).

So when you see any Italian word that looks like two English words, it will help if you associate it with the correct English word.

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Link to ITALIAN WORDS RESEMBLING TWO ENGLISH WORDS:


Italian that somewhat resembles two English words can be helpful or misleading.


Return to Easiest Italian Introduction.



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