Learning Italian Language: watch out for the false friends! | ELLCI

False friends in Italian: what are they?


False friends in Italian: what are they?

You can’t trust false friends, that’s for sure. Indeed, they are very, very angry! But what happens when we find some in a foreign language? We call faux amis, a French term coined by M. Koessler and J. Derocquigny, in English known as false friends and falsi amici in Italian, those slightly mischievous words, which in morphology closely resemble words that you can find in your language, but that the meaning is totally different and many times… comic! Today we will face some false friends in Italian that will seem homonymous in English or Spanish terms but not synonymous at all. And now, put down the hatchet and arm yourself with a good dictionary J

False friends between Italian and English

British homographs are very common. How many times have you ever said “wow! Even in English you say that! “? A million. But be careful, not all that glitters is gold.

  1. Attualmente. Often italianized starting from actually, this adverb means “now”, “in this period”. If you’re trying to use it to introduce a sentence, you might want to start your sentence with interlayers like “in realtà…” or “a dire il vero,” for example.
  2. A classic: la libreria. This is the bookshop where books are sold. Maybe you meant “biblioteca”? That is the place where books are loaned! In biblioteca it is also possible to consult the material or study. So, it is not possible to buy books in the library.
  3. Sbam! Bang! Paff, patratac! Psss… here, these are the only “rumori” you can hear. If, on the other hand, you are listening to very personal information from your neighbor, then you are doing some very healthy “pettegolezzo”, what in English is also called gossip. And no rumors! At the most we can say that your neighbors always make a lot of noise… who knows what they are up to ?! Sshh!
  4. Brrr… what a cold! Here, this is one of the classic dilemmas we have to face in the shower. Oh no, let’s not talk about your uvula. Remember: caldo = hot, freddo = cold. But slowly open the knob, we advise you, because you never know.
  5. In Italian there is a proverb that says “parenti serpenti, cugini assassini, fratelli coltelli” (snake relatives, murderous cousins, brothers with knives). But the parents? Nope! They are as good as bread. Here, remember that the term parenti, although in Latin meant to indicate who gave birth to us (partorire – parenti), in modern Italian the same people are called genitori, or those who generate us. So, parenti are not mom and dad, but all the other relatives.


Here are some other very common English translations:

Terrific: magnificent, exceptional, fantastic. In English terrific means just that. Not as terrifying, terrificante.

Chest: in italian petto and not cesto. That is a basket.

Magazine: it is rivista. A magazzino, in Italian, is a warehouse.

Annoying results in infastidire and not annoiare, as a lot of people say. That means just to bore. Ugh!

Falsi amici tra italiano e spagnolo

And you, dear Spanish speakers, what can you tell us about this proposal? It is very common to think that Italian and Spanish are sister languages ​​and it is certainly no secret that Italians and Spaniards, in some way, always manage to communicate with each other. Despite everything, however, we must be careful, since there are plenty of false friends and it is not so difficult to understand Rome for toma (Piedmontese popular proverb which means to confuse one thing for another).

  1. I’ll tell you about a successo. Here, maybe you want to tell us a fatto, un evento (fact, an event). If you tell us a successo, we will be very happy for you, but you are telling us that you have had a favorable outcome, a wonderful success at something… and we know that it is not necessarily the case. Suceso in Spanish is not synonymous with successo (success) in Italian.
  2. Can you pass me the aceto? Yes. But isn’t it that maybe you wanted olio? We repeat all together: the Spanish wors aceite corresponds to oil in Italian, the Italian word aceto corresponds to Spanish vinagre (vinegar).
  3. Sali di qui! Ehm, esci…esci! (Get in here! Um, get out … get out!) In Italian, salire is go up, in Spanish salir is go out. Salir (spa) = uscire (ita) (GO OUT), Subir (spa) = salire (ita) (GO UP).
  4. Let’s go back to a hot topic, and let’s talk about cooking. And here we are referring to Italian speakers: if you go to Spain and exclaim “che caldo!” (“how hot!”), Do not be surprised by the bewildered looks of those who listen to you. The caldo, in Spanish, is nothing less than our brodo (broth). If you sweat in Sevilla, at the most, you will have calor.
  5. Okay, we’re still hungry. A great arroz? Vegetarians can eat it too, it’s just rice. No arrosto (roast) on this table.
  6. Burro! Maybe this article was composed during lunchtime, but it must be said that there are many gastronomic confusions between Italian and Spanish. If you give someone burro (butter), no one in Italy will be offended, as in Spain. He will rather spread it on bread, just like mantequilla. The burro which is meant in Spanish, on the other hand, in Italian is translated with the term asino, which, in addition to being a very sweet quadruped, becomes an insult if “given to someone”. Do not fear for the donkey, however. It is found in so many “ways to say” in Italian that it could easily clean up its reputation as an ignoramus (see: working like a donkey, believing that a donkey flies, having the beauty of a donkey, etc.).

But then, how do you say in Italian …?

Contestar Rispondere.

Contestare is to protest.

To answer, reply


Gamba Gamberetto.

Gamba is lag.



Guay! Fantastico!

Guai is a big problem.



Guardar Conservare.

Uardare means to look.

To preserve


Prender Accendere.

Prendere means to take.

Switch on


Confetis Coriandoli.

Confetti means sugared almond.

Carnival confetti


Cilantro Coriandolo


Coriander (spice)


Peladilla, gragea Confetto Sugared almond


If you want to know other misunderstandings, write to us. We know how to choose friends. Ah! And complete the exercises, a teacher from the ELLCI school will send you the corrections as soon as possible