Italian Language Blog

Italian Cognates and False Friends Posted by on Apr 4, 2020 in Grammar

Ciao a tutti! 

Spero che tutto sia bene! As you may know, Italian is a language derived from Latin, and English has a big portion of it’s vocabulary that is also derived from Latin (about 40%) so Italian and English share many cognates, as well as ‘false friends.’ Let’s discover some more about them below.

Italian Cognates 

A cognate is a word that has similar spelling and the same meaning between two different languages. I’m sure you can think of plenty in Italian already. They are always a welcome sight to any language learner as they help your comprehension, plus they’ll be easy to remember for future use. Italian cognates are therefore your friend!

Ecco qualche esempio:

  • adorabile – adorable
  • impossibile – impossible
  • naturale – natural
  • paradiso – paradise
  • recente – recent
  • problema – problem
  • finale – final
  • moderno – modern
  • melodia – melody
  • animale – animal
  • banca – bank
  • sistema – system

Ecc, ecc, ecc….! This list can really go on for forever. Look for cognates to help you understand the meaning of a sentence when you’re learning a second language, loro sono i vostri amici!

‘False Friends’


A false friend is a word in a foreign language that is spelled in a similar manner and yet has a completely different meaning. They make learning a foreign language a bit more challenging, and so they are clearly not your friends. Allora, state attenti!

Ecco qualche esempio:

  • annoiare – to bore (not to annoy- irritare)
  • confrontare – to compare (not to confront – affrontare)
  • domandare – to ask (not to demand – esigere)
  • pretendere – to expect (not to pretend – fingere)
  • educato – polite (not educated – istruito)
  • grosso – fat, huge (not gross – schifo)
  • morbido – soft (not morbid – morboso)
  • camera – room (not camera – fotocamera)
  • libreria – bookstore (not library – biblioteca)
  • baldo – bold (not bald – calvo)


Tocca a voi! Can you think of any other cognates or false friends in Italian? Do you have any stories of when you may have gotten confused with a false friend?

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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement for Transparent Language.


  1. Jim Hartley:

    Convenire, conveniente: not to be convenient, but to be most advantageous.
    Servire, not to serve, but to be useful to,

  2. Ruth:

    Quello che può davvero essere imbarazzante – preservativo invece di conservativo…

    • Bridgette:

      @Ruth Molto imbarazzante! haha

  3. Joan Engelhaupt:

    controllare – to check
    sistemare – (altho my dictionary says, “to arrange, put in order”, I think I’ve heard it used to mean to fix or repair.)

  4. Jim Bellina:

    In you blog on cognates: grosso—big
    Is this correct?

    • Bridgette:

      @Jim Bellina Yes! Grasso means fat. But grosso can also be used with a person to mean large, fat. Grosso can also be used figuratively to say fat.

  5. Tom Dawkes:

    consentire – as in non è consentito

    controllare – check NOT control, as in control passporte

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