Italian False Friends Posted by Geoff on Nov 30, 2015 in Vocabulary
Falsi amici, false friends … we’ve all had them! You think you’re a ‘good judge of character’, or perhaps you just want to believe that life is simpler than it really is. And then … dammit, screwed again!
Well dear readers, your guardian angel has arrived. I’m here to forewarn you that the Italian language is peppered with some very insidious falsi amici, or to use their correct name ‘false cognates’. False cognates are words that sound the same, or similar in two different languages but actually have different meanings. There, I’ve just used one of them … did you spot it?
Let’s begin to weed them out shall we?
Attualmente, that must mean actually right? Wrong!
Definition of attualmente: at present, at the moment, now, or nowadays. e.g. ‘attualmente non fa molto freddo’ (It’s not very cold at the moment), ‘mia sorella attualmente abita in Francia’ (my sister lives in France at present). Find out more about attualmente and actually here.
Pretendere obviously means to pretend, doesn’t it? No!
Definition of pretendere: To want or expect something unreasonably or unjustly, e.g. ‘pretende quaranta euro per mezz’ora di lavoro!’ (he wants forty Euro for half an hour’s work!) or ‘non puoi pretendere di parlare italiano dopo un mese’ (you can’t expect to speak Italian after one month). Find out more about pretendere and pretend here.
Attendere means to attend? Sorry, wrong again!
Definition of attendere: ‘to wait for’, ‘to await’, e.g. ‘ho atteso l’autobus per oltre mezz’ora’ (I waited for the bus for more than half an hour), or ‘attendiamo che arrivi Anna per mangiare’ (let’s wait for Anna to arrive before we eat). Find out more about attendere and attend here.
Preservativo, now don’t tell me that it doesn’t mean preservative. Correct, it doesn’t!
Definition of preservativo: condom! Find out more about preservativi and preserves here.
Sensibile, well this one’s obvious: sensible. Fooled again!
Definition of sensibile: sensitive, e.g. ‘non posso lavare i piatti senza i guanti perché ho la pelle molto sensibile’ (I can’t wash the dishes without gloves because I’ve got very sensitive skin), or ‘le mie figlie sono tutte e due ragazze molto sensibili’ (both of my children are very sensitive girls). Find out more here.
But sensitivo sounds like sensitive, so what does it really mean then?
Definition of sensitivo: spiritual medium … huh, didn’t expect that did you?
Now let me just reassure you that although this list is far from complete, false cognates are limited in number. In fact there are only 4,362 of them to learn off by heart.
Only joking! There really aren’t that many of them that you need to worry about. If I were you, I’d be more concerned about the plethora of euphemistic words that refer to genitalia and sex … now those can be really embarrassing! Hmm, I suppose I’d better write a blog on the topic, non vedo l’ora!
Do you have any favourite false cognates that you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment.