Watch out for false friends! They might sound or look alike, but they’re not. These lovely pairings are words across two languages that are similar in sound or writing, but not in meaning. Some of them can lead to embarrassing situations or become the start of future funny stories. Don’t worry; we Spanish speakers like to tease people. We don’t mean any harm.
No es lo mismo – It’s not the same...
You think it means: constipated
It actually means: common cold
Have you ever heard a Spanish speaker say ‘estoy constipado’? Probably the first thing on your mind is related to the bathroom, but WAIT! They’re not sharing too much information; ‘constipado’ actually means a common cold.
Constipated = estreñido
You think it means: embarrassed
It actually means: pregnant
So if you say or do something a little embarrassing and say ¡Estoy embarazada! you may see some shocked faces (especially if you’re a man) or people congratulating you as you’ll be saying ‘I’m pregnant!’
**Ok, there is a way out of this moment. I’ll tell you a little secret… just say “¡Ups! Quise decir embarazoso [Oops! I meant embarrassing!]” embarazoso and embarrassing are true friends. You’re welcome ☺
Embarassed = avergonzado(a)
You think it means: preservative
It actually means: condom
Careful with this one… so you say “no me gusta la comida con preservativos” thinking you’re talking about being organic and food preservatives, yet actually you’re saying “I don’t like food with condoms” which is common sense basically.
Preservatives = conservantes
You think it means: groceries
It actually means: swear words or rudeness
If you hear ¡No digas groserías! It’s not that they’re saying not to talk about groceries. Both words might be similar in writing and sound, but grocerías means curse words.
Groceries = comida or comestibles
You think it means: intoxicated
It actually means: poisoned
Let’s say you drink too much and say “¡guau, estoy intoxicado!”. Your Spanish speaker friends might ask you if you want to go to a hospital or need a trip to the bathroom, as the closest meaning of ‘intoxicado’ in Spanish is ‘poisoned’ mostly related to food.
Intoxicated = borracho/ebrio (alcohol), drogado (drugs)
**Interesting fact: ‘intoxicado’ is known as the seventy-one-million-dollar word. In 1980, Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital. His friends and family, who only spoke Spanish, tried to explain the doctors that they believe Ramirez was ‘intoxicado’ as they believed that he was suffering from food poisoning. A bilingual staff mistranslated ‘intoxicado’ as ‘intoxicated’ which incurred to wrong treatment. Ramirez was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage. However, the hospital treated him as if he was suffering from a drug overdose. This delay in the treatment left him quadriplegic and he received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.
You think it means: exit
It actually means: success
If you’re waiting for someone at the exit of someplace and say “te espero en el éxito”… well that’s quite the journey as you’d be saying “I’ll wait for you in the success” (doesn’t make much sense, right?). Also, the Spanish word “suceso” which sound similar to ‘success’ means an event or occurrence.
Exit = salida
You think it means: pie
It actually means: foot
So, don’t ever say ‘qué delicioso pie’ well, unless that you actually mean that it’s a delicious foot (ew, really?). It’s written the same way, but it’s pronounced as pee-eh.
Pie = pastel, torta or tarta
- Author: Alba