CORE Team
By CORE Team on September 15, 2022

15 False Friends in English and German

False friends, or "false cognates" are words that look, and often sound the same, but do not mean the same thing in two different languages. False friends exist between many languages. For example, the English word "pain" has a French false friend. "le pain", which does not mean "pain", but bread. The Spanish word "burro" (donkey) has an Italian false friend, "burro" which is "butter" in Italian.

Canva Design DAFJBWaOKF8German has numerous false cognates with English as well. For example, the German noun "das Bad" (bathroom, or bath) is spelled the same as "bad" (not good). The two words, apart from the capitalization, look identical, but don't mean the same at all. "Die Hose" (the pants) is not the same as "the hose" in the backyard, which would be "der Schlauch" in German. 

German to EnglishHere are 15 more examples of English/German "False Friends".  

1. gut means good

2. gross means big/large

3. hell means bright, light

4. fast means almost

5. bald means soon

gut6. die Wand means the wall

7. der Tag means the day

8. der Fall means the case

9. das Handy means the cell phone

10. der Rock means the skirt

Canva Design DAFJBhvn0vM11. der Chef means the boss/manager

12. das Gift means the poison

13. der Mist means the dung

14. also means so, thus

15. herb means bitter, harsh

Canva Design DAFJBpCFB6g

The chart below shows the actual meaning of the false friends in English. It also includes the actual German word for the English word that first comes to mind when looking at the false German friend.

false-cognatesec7238f33419427ebacc5dc77efa023eAre there any false cognates between English and your language? We would love to hear them!

Published by CORE Team September 15, 2022
CORE Team