Dictionary and translator for handheld
New : sensagent is now available on your handheld
A windows (pop-into) of information (full-content of Sensagent) triggered by double-clicking any word on your webpage. Give contextual explanation and translation from your sites !
With a SensagentBox, visitors to your site can access reliable information on over 5 million pages provided by Sensagent.com. Choose the design that fits your site.
Improve your site content
Add new content to your site from Sensagent by XML.
Crawl products or adds
Get XML access to reach the best products.
Index images and define metadata
Get XML access to fix the meaning of your metadata.
Please, email us to describe your idea.
Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !
Change the target language to find translations.
Tips: browse the semantic fields (see From ideas to words) in two languages to learn more.
False friends (French: faux amis) are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects (or letters in two alphabets) that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning. An example is Portuguese raro "rare" vs. Spanish raro "strange" (similarly, Spanish exquisito "exquisite" vs. Portuguese esquisito "strange").
Often, there is a partial overlap in meanings, which creates additional complications: e.g. Spanish lima, meaning "lime" (the fruit) and "lime" (the calcium-based material), but also "file" (the tool).
The term should be distinguished from "false cognates", which are similar words in different languages that appear to have a common historical linguistic origin (whatever their current meaning) but actually do not.
As well as complete false friends, use of loanwords often results in the use of a word in a restricted context, which may then develop new meanings not found in the original language.
Both false friends and false cognates can cause difficulty for students learning a foreign language, particularly one that is related to their native language, because students are likely to identify the words wrongly due to linguistic interference. For this reason, teachers sometimes compile lists of false friends as an aid for their students.
Comedy sometimes includes puns on false friends, which are considered particularly amusing if one of the two words is obscene; when an obscene meaning is produced in these circumstances, it is called cacemphaton, Greek for "ill-sounding".
One kind of false friend can occur when two speakers speak different varieties of the same language. Speakers of British English and American English sometimes have this problem, which was alluded to in George Bernard Shaw's statement "England and America are two countries separated by a common language". For example, in the UK (and in other Commonwealth countries), to "table" a motion means to place it on the agenda (to bring it to the table for consideration), while in the US it means exactly the opposite —"to remove it from consideration" (to lay it aside on the table rather than hold it up for consideration).
From the etymological point of view, false friends can be created in several ways.
If Language A borrowed a word from Language B, or both borrowed the word from a third language or inherited it from a common ancestor, and later the word shifted in meaning or acquired additional meanings in at least one of these languages, a native speaker of one language will face a false friend when learning the other. Sometimes, presumably both senses were present in the common ancestor language, but the cognate words got different restricted senses in Language A and Language B.
For example, the words preservative (English), préservatif (French), Präservativ (German), prezervativ (Romanian, Czech, Croatian), preservativ (Slovenian), preservativo (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese), prezerwatywa (Polish), презерватив "prezervativ" (Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian), prezervatif (Turkish), præservativ (Danish), prezervatyvas (Lithuanian), Prezervatīvs (Latvian) and preservatiu (Catalan) are all derived from the Latin word praeservativum. But in all of these languages except English, the predominant meaning of the word is now condom.
Actual, which in English is usually a synonym of "real", has a different meaning in other European languages, in which it means "current" or "up-to-date", and has the logical derivative as a verb, meaning "to make current" or "to update". "Actualise" (or "actualize") in English means "to make a reality of".
Demand in English and demande in French or domanda in Italian are representative of a particularly treacherous sort of false friend, in which – despite a common origin – the words have differently shaded meanings. The French and Italian homologues simply mean "request", not a forceful requirement. This led to several historic misunderstandings, such as in Canada, the failing of the Meech Lake Accord where Quebec constitutional requests were interpreted as demands. In Spanish demandar may mean "to request", but its normal meaning is "to sue".
The word friend itself has cognates in the other Germanic languages; but the Scandinavian ones (like Swedish frände, Danish frænde) predominatly mean "relative" (but may also mean soulmate). The original word had both the meanings "friend" and "relative" but lost various degrees of the "friend" sense in Scandinavian languages, while it mostly lost the sense of "relative" in English. (The plural "friends" still but rarely may be used for "kinsfolk", as in the Scottish proverb Friends agree best at a distance, quoted in 1721.)
The Italian word magazzino, French magasin, Dutch magazijn, and Russian магазин (magazin), is used for a depot, store, or warehouse. In English the word magazine has also the meaning of "periodic publication". The word "magazine" has the same meaning in French. In Serbian, there are two similar words: magacin, representing the former, and magazin representing the latter meaning. To add confusion, there is an extra meaning of magazine (firearms) in several languages (with accordingly different spellings). (Note, however, that the term "powder magazine", a store for gunpowder, as e.g. in the town of Williamsburg, Virginia, restored to its colonial form, would be well understood by current English speakers, though recognized as an archaicism.
Gift originally had the same meaning in English and German. In Old High German and Middle High German Gift was the term for an "object that is given". Although it had always included a euphemistic meaning for "poison" ("being given"), over the following centuries it gradually suffered a full semantic change to the sole present German meaning "poison". It is still reflected in the German term for the English word dowry = Mitgift, das Mitgegebene, "that which is given" (with the wedding). In Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, gift means "poison" but also "married". In Dutch, "gift" means a gift, but "gif" and "giftig" (or "vergiftig") mean poison and poisonous respectively. The latter two meanings also apply for the Afrikaans language, spoken in Southern Africa, which originated from Old Dutch amongst others.
Cafeteria means "dining hall" in English; but cafetería means "coffeehouse" in Spanish and Portuguese, whereas cafetéria means "fringe benefit" in Hungarian and cofetărie means "sweetshop" in Romanian.
Sótano means "cellar" in Spanish, but sótão means "attic" in Portuguese.
Normal in French implies technical conformance (to technical standards), it means "It is as it's supposed to be", while normal in English implies social conformance (to social norms). This is why the now-archaic normal school (from the French école normale) is so confusing to present-day English speakers; it was a place where people received standardized training in how to teach children, not an institution where social deviants learned how to behave normally. The same divergence also presented a problem for the International Organization for Standardization (Organisation internationale de normalisation) at its founding in 1947; it settled on the short name ISO as a compromise between IOS and OIN.
The Finnish and Estonian languages are both part of the non-Indo-European Uralic languages; they share a similar grammar as well as several individual words, though sometimes as false friends: e.g. the Finnish word for 'south', etelä is close to the Estonian word edel, but the latter means south-west. However, the Estonian word for south, lõuna, is close to the Finnish word lounas, which means south-west.
In certain cases, false friends evolved separately in the different languages. Words usually change by small shifts in pronunciation accumulated over long periods and sometimes converge by chance on the same pronunciation or look despite having come from different roots.
For example, German Rat (pronounced with a long "a") (= "council") is cognate with English "read" and German and Dutch Rede (= "speech", often religious in nature) (hence Æthelred the 'Unready' would not heed the speech of his advisors, and the word 'unready' is cognate with the Dutch word "onraad" meaning trouble, danger), while English and Dutch "rat" for the rodent has its German cognate Ratte.
In another example, the word bra in the Swedish language means "good", as in "a good song", "a good book" or "Good day!" (bra has the same meaning in Norwegian.) In both languages Bara bra (Sw.) or Bare bra (No.) as a response to "How are you?" is very common (likewise Ha det bra as a form of "Good bye"). In English, bra is short for the French brassière, which is an undergarment that supports the breasts. The full English spelling, brassiere, is now a false friend in and of itself (the modern French term for brassiere is soutien-gorge). Additionally, 'bra' is sometimes used in colloquial English as an alteration of 'bro', a shortening of 'brother' with a meaning akin to 'companion'.
In Swedish, the word "rolig" means "fun" (as in "It was a fun party"), while in the closely related languages Danish and Norwegian it means "calm" (as in "he was calm despite all the furor around him"). This can lead to confusion with a Swede exclaiming "It'll be fun!" leaving a Dane thinking "How boring!"
An Old and Middle English letter has become a false friend in modern English: the letters thorn (þ) and eth (ð) were used interchangeably to represent voiced and voiceless dental fricatives now written in English as th (as in "thick" and "the"). Though the thorn character (whose appearance was usually similar to the modern "p") was most common, the eth could equally be used. Due to its similarity to an oblique minuscule "y", an actual "Y" is substituted in modern pseudo-old-fashioned usage as in "Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe"; the first word means and should be pronounced "the", not "ye" (archaic form of "you").
Homoglyphs occur also by coincidence. For example, Finnish tie means "road"; the pronunciation is [tie], unlike English [tai], which in turn means "or" in Finnish.
For example, in German: Oldtimer refers to an old car (or antique aircraft) rather than an old person, while Handy refers to a mobile phone. Beamer refers to a computer projector or video projector rather than a car manufactured by BMW.
In the SeSotho group of languages spoken in South Africa pushback refers to a combed back hair style, commonly worn by black women with chemically straightened hair; and stop-nonsense refers to pre-fabricated concrete slabs used as fencing.
In bilingual situations, false friends often result in a semantic change—a real new meaning that is then commonly used in a language. For example, the Portuguese humoroso ("capricious") changed its referent in American Portuguese to "humorous", owing to the English surface-cognate "humorous."
"Corn" was originally the dominant type of grain in a region (indeed "corn" and "grain" are themselves cognates from the same Indo-European root). It came to mean usually wheat in the British Isles, but maize in North America.
The Italian word "confetti" (sugared almonds) has acquired a new meaning in English and French - in Italian, the corresponding word is "coriandoli".
The American Italian fattoria lost its original meaning "farm" in favour of "factory" owing to the phonetically similar surface-cognate English "factory" (cf. Standard Italian fabbrica "factory"). Instead of the original fattoria, the phonetic adaptation American Italian farma (Weinreich 1963: 49) became the new signifier for "farm"—see "one-to-one correlation between signifiers and referents".
Since English, German and Dutch have many of the same etymological origins, there actually are a great number of words in both languages that are very similar and do have the same meaning (e.g. word/Wort/woord, book/Buch/boek, house/Haus/huis, water/Wasser/water ...). However, similar words with a different meaning are also quite common (e.g., German bekommen means "to get", that is, "to come by", not "to become", and is thus a false friend, which could lead a German English learner to utter an embarrassing sentence like: "I want to become a beefsteak."). Another example is the word gift, which in English and Dutch means a "present" but in German and the Scandinavian languages means "poison" (the Swedish word for "gift" being gåva, related to the verb "to give"). In Danish and Norwegian, "gift" also means 'married', in the sense 'given in marriage'.
English "knight" and German Knecht are clearly related (though pronounced differently), and originally had also a similar meaning, denoting a person rather low in the social scale. However, the English one underwent a great upward mobility during the Middle Ages, becoming associated with the aristocracy, while its German equivalent retained the humble meaning of "servant". (To make the confusion even greater, where Knecht received a military meaning—in "Landsknecht"—it denoted foot soldiers rather than cavalry). The German word for English "knight" is Ritter, the Swedish riddare, which is the cognate of English "rider" - but which carries vast social implications absent from the English word.
The German word Land is the exact cognate of English land but it carries many political, constitutional, and historical meanings absent from the English term (among other things a constituent state of the German Federal Republic, historically a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, but also "rural" as opposed to "urban", etc. — the Swedish lantis equating to "country bumpkin" or "hick" — most of these meanings are borne by the Anglo-Norman word country in English).
The title of the well-known Italian novel Il Gattopardo was rendered in English as "The Leopard", in which the translator was led astray by a false friend; Italian gattopardo, while being the cognate of "leopard", in fact refers to other felines (the American ocelot, the African serval and an extinct type of Italian wildcat).
False friends can be especially confusing when meanings of words in one language are similar to those in another, especially when context cannot help in resolving the confusion. For example, German and Scandinavian "Hund" and Dutch "Hond" are the cognates of English "hound", but whereas hund and hond refer to dogs in general, in English the sense has been narrowed to dogs used for hunting. Conversely, the German "Dogge" and French "dogue" refer to a specific kind of dog rather than to dogs in general. And French "librairie" or Romanian "librărie" are the cognate of "library" but refers to a bookshop.
Another Spanish/English false friend is "embarrassed/embarazado". Where "embarrassed" in English means approximately "ashamed", a similar-sounding Spanish word, "embarazada", means "pregnant". Both derive from old Castillan-Portuguese "embarazar", meaning impede, hinder, obstruct. In Spanish it was then used as euphemism for "pregnant" (she was "embarrassed"--hindered—by her pregnancy) and that became the primary meaning. In English, the meaning was taken from being "embarrassed", ill at ease, hindered, by shame. In Portuguese, "embaraçar" has a meaning similar to the English. (In medical English, however, "embarrass" retains a meaning much more general than in the language as a whole: essentially, to diminish.)
Yet another Spanish/English false friend is "America/América", where the word "America" in English, and singular, is usually used to talk about the United States of America, and the word "América" in Spanish is used to talk about the whole American continent. This false friend in particular is cause of controversies for Hispano American people.
In Spanish "sustituir" means "replace" so that "sustituir A por B" means "replace A with B" or "substitute B for A", the opposite of what it apparently might look like.
Another example is the English pair of words "assist" and "attend", whose meanings in Spanish are just the opposite. So, "attending a course" is "asistir un curso" and "assist someone" is "atender a alguien".
The main meaning of the Italian verb "pretendere" is "demand", while in Spanish, "pretender" basically means "try to"--although both verbs have a (very) secondary meaning "pretend".
A Spanish/Maltese false friend is guapo/a and gwapp/a respectively. While the former means "handsome", the latter gives an ironic sense of "clumsy", akin to the English "That was clever!"
The Latin root of concur has several meanings; "to meet (in battle)" and "to meet (in agreement)". In many European languages, words derived from this root take after the first meaning—English being a notable exception (e.g. French and Dutch concurrent and Russian конкурент translate as "competitor" in English). Additionally, in some languages a "concourse" (Swedish konkurs, Finnish konkurssi) takes its meaning from "concourse of debtors"; that is, it means bankruptcy, while in Russian конкурс takes one more meaning and refers to contest. Likewise, in the context of corporations, German Konzern, Swedish koncern and Finnish konserni means "conglomerate", not "concern".
The French verb attendre means "to wait", yet an English speaker learning French might expect the English equivalent to be "attend", which means "to participate in" or "to go to". However, the verb "attend" in English is translated as assister in French and asistir in Spanish, both of which could be further misinterpreted as equivalent to the English "assist", which means "to help" (which is also another meaning of the Spanish's asistir). In Catholic literature in English, the term "assist at Mass" has been used to mean "to attend Mass" due to a mistranslation of the French "assister à la messe" which means "to attend Mass". Despite the above, the noun form in English ("attendant") is someone who waits on another, generally with menial tasks and in a temporary fashion, as on an airplane or hotel; whereas 'assistant' implies a longer-term, higher level, and often contractual (=employment), relationship. French actor Gérard Depardieu was involved in a famous row with American feminists because he mistakenly said he "assisted" a rape in his tumultuous teenage years, while what he really meant was that he had "witnessed" one such event.
'Rare' in English means "uncommon", while raar in Dutch means "strange", and similarly rar in Swedish means "rare" ("sällsynt", SAOL) as well as the more common meaning "nice", "cute", "dear" or "sweet", but in neighboring Norwegian: "peculiar" or "awkward". On the other hand, the Dutch word for "uncommon" is zeldzaam, while the German word seltsam (Swedish sällsam) means "strange".
Dutch in English refers to the language spoken in the Netherlands and Flanders. Duits in Dutch refers to the language spoken in Germany ("Duitsland"). However, the term "Pennsylvania Dutch" refers to a group of people originally from Germany.
English "Welsh" does not mean the same as German "Welsch-" (implying, roughly, "Romance-language-speaking") or Polish "Włoch" (an Italian) or Greek Βλάχ (Romanian and/or Aromanian), all stemming from an Old German root *welkh meaning "foreigner".
"Pasta" in Turkish means cake, not the famous Italian dish.
A Portuguese/English double false friend is for example the English word "ordinary" (which has the roughly the same meaning as "normal" or "regular") in Portuguese means "vulgar". The English word "vulgar" (something vile, rude, crude or disgusting) has the rough translation of "ordinário/a" in Portuguese which is also used as an adjective to insult people: "Seu ordinário!" meaning "You are a vulgar!". Similar in German with "ordinär" (while a real equivalent for "ordinary" can be, especially in administrative or legal language, "ordentlich", which however also means "decent" and "tidy").
Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls made deliberate use of false friends as one of the devices intended to convey to the reader that English conversations in the book in fact represent Spanish. Thus, he used "rare" rather than "strange" to represent the Spanish "raro", and "syndicate" rather than "trade union" for the Spanish "sindicato".
||This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2010)|
|Look up false friend in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of|