Surprise surprise!

Do you know what constipado means in Portuguese? Probably not what you are thinking...

Get a list of 50+ English-Portuguese False Friends and be surprised.

Magnet False Friends

English-Portuguese False Friends to Keep an Eye Out For

There are many English-Portuguese false friends (or false cognates if you will). Looking quite similar, these are words that people often assume to have the same meaning. Except that they don’t!

See, there are thousands of English and Portuguese words that share the same Latin root and, as a result, look and sound similar, and mean pretty much the same thing.

In some cases, however, their meanings have gradually grown apart with time. Nowadays, they look and sound similar, but they mean different things. They’ve become false friends!

Now, words under the label “false friends” don’t necessarily mean different things in either language. Indeed, many of these words evolved into different “shades” of the same original meaning. Although used in different contexts, they are still semantically relatable.

Other times, a Portuguese word can have two meanings of which the one with the least currency matches the dominant meaning of the corresponding English cognate (and vice versa). These word pairs are often considered false friends.    

Below you have a comprehensive list of English-Portuguese false friends with simple usage examples.

Reading tips! Sure enough, there are plenty of “true friends” between Portuguese and English as well: English-Portuguese Cognates – Words You Already Know (without Knowing It)

Common English-Portuguese False Friends

PORTUGUESE
equivalent in English
ENGLISH
equivalent in Portuguese
EXAMPLE 
advogado
lawyer
advocate
argumentar (a favor de alguma coisa)
Preciso urgentemente de um advogado.
I urgently need a lawyer.
aliás
by the way; moreover
alias
pseudónimo
Alías, escusas de voltar aqui.
By the way, save yourself the hassle of coming back.
adepto
supporter; fan 
adept
apto; ágil
Ele não é grande adepto de futebol.
He’s not a great fan of football.
amassar
knead
amass
acumular; açambarcar
Antes de cozer o pão temos de amassar a massa.
Before we bake the bread, we must knead the dough.
apontamento
written note
appointment
compromisso; marcação
Tiraste apontamentos durante a aula?
Did you write notes during the lecture?
argumento
reasoning
argument
discussão
Ontem tive uma discussão acessa com o Joel.

Yesterday, I had a heated argument with Joel.
assistir
watch a live event
assist
ajudar
Vais assistir ao jogo?
Are you going to watch the match?
atender
pick up the phone; receive patients/clients
attend
comparecer
Porque nunca atendes quando te ligo?
Why don’t you ever answer the phone when I call you?
atualmente
nowadays; currently
actually
na verdade; na realidade
Atualmente estamos sem vagas.
Currently, we have no vacancies.
balcão
counter
balcony
varanda
Estou farto de estar aqui ao balcão à espera.
I am tired of waiting here at the counter.
bestial
amazing
bestial
animalesco; cruel
Isto é bestial!
This is amazing!
cavalheiro
gentleman
cavalier
arrogant; condescendente
Ele é um verdadeiro cavalheiro.
He truly is a gentleman.
colar
necklace
collar
colarinho
Ele deu-me este colar no Natal.
He gave me this necklace last Christmas.
compreensivo
understanding
comprehensive
detalhado; exaustivo
A Raquel é uma pessoa compreensiva.
Raquel is an understading person.
compromisso
appointment
compromise
ceder; entrar em acordo
Hoje tenho um compromisso às 16h.
Today I have an appointment at 4 p.m.
confidente
confidant
confident
confiante
Eu e o Miguel somos bons amigos e confidentes.
Miguel and I are good friends and condidants.
constipação
cold (as in being sick)
constipation
prisão de ventre
Há muito tempo que não apanho uma constipação.
It’s been a long time since I last caught a cold.
convicto
certain; confident
convicted
condenado
Ela estava convicta de que tinha razão.
She was certain she was right.
costume
custom; tradition; habit; manners
costume
traje; vestimenta
Cada país tem os seus costumes e tradições.
Every country has its own folklore and traditions.
creme
egg custard
cream
natas
O creme deste bolo é delicioso.
The custard in this cake is delicious.
cuspe
limiar
cusp
spit (noun)
Isso está colado a cuspe. Não cola!
That is glued with spit. It doesn’t hold!
data
date
data
dados
O 10 de Junho é uma data importante em Portugal.
The 10th of June is an important date in Portugal.
dececionar
disappoint
deceive
enganar
Não te vou dececionar
I am not going to disappoint you.
dente
tooth
dent
amassadela
Tenho dores de dentes.
I have a toothache.
diversão
amusement
diversion
distração; desvio
Todos nós precisamos de diversão de vez em quando.
We all need to amuse ourselves now and then.
editor, editora
publisher
editor
redator
Ando à procura de uma editora para publicar o meu romance.
I am looking for a publisher to publish my novel.
educado
polite
educated
letrado; cultivado
Ela é tão educada!
She’s so polite!
enrolar
wind up
enroll
matricular-se; inscrever-se
Enrola este cabo e põe-no no sítio.
Wind up this piece of wire and put it away.
esperto
smart; clever
expert
perito
Pensas que és esperto, é?
Do you think you are smart, is that it?
esquisito
weird; strange
exquisite
requintado
Está aqui um cheiro esquisito.
There’s a funny smell in here.
estrangeiro
foreign; abroad
stranger
estranho
Há muitos estrangeiros a viver em Portugal.
There are many foreigners living in Portugal.
eventualmente
maybe; may
eventually
finalmente
Chego eventualmente antes das 21h.
I may arrive before 9 p.m.
excitado
sexually aroused
excited
empulgado; entusiasmado
Não posso ver umas saias, fico logo excitado.
Anything that moves turns me on.
êxito
success
exit
saída
Infelizmente não tive êxito.
Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed.
fábrica
factory
fabric
tecido
Em Portugal há muitas fábricas têxtil.
In Portugal, there are many textile factories.
facilidade
easiness; inclination (talent)
facility
lugar; instalação
Ela tem facilidade em tocar piano.
She has a natural inclination to play the piano.
genial
ingenious
genial
amigável
Ele é uma pessoa amigável.
He’s a genial person.
gentil
kind
gentile
pagão; infiel
Tu és muito gentil.
You’re very kind.
gripe
flu
grip
firmeza; tração
Apanhei uma gripe valente!
I caught a nasty dose of flu!
ingénuo
naive
ingenious
criativo; engenhoso
Era tão ingénuo quando tinha 14 anos!
I was so naive when I was 14!
injúria
insult
injury
falta; lesão
Não admito qualquer tipo de injúria nesta casa!
I don’t allow insults of any kind in this house!
jarro
jug
jar
boião
Pode trazer um jarro com água, por favor?
Could you bring us a jug of water, please?
jornal
newspaper
journal
publicação científica
Compraste o jornal?
Have you bought the newspaper?
lanche
snack
lunch
almoço
Trouxeste o lanche?
Did you bring some snacks with you?
legenda(s)
subtitles
legend
lenda
Devias ver filmes portugueses sem legendas.
You should watch Portuguese movies without subtitles.
livraria
bookstore
library
biblioteca
Passas-te pela livraria?
Did you drop by the bookstore?
novela
soap opera
novel
romance
Não suporto novelas.
I can’t stand soap operas.
notícia
news
notice
notar; perceber
Tens notícias?
Do you have news?
ofício
profession; occupation
office
escritório
Qual é o teu ofício?
What do you do for a living?
parentes
relatives
parents
pais
Tenho muitos parentes no Brasil.
I have many relatives in Brazil.
particular
private; personal
particular
particular; específico
Estes assuntos são particulares.
These are private matters.
pasta
briefcase
pasta
massa
Viste a minha pasta?
Have you seen my briefcase?
prejudicar
cause harm; disfavor
prejudice
preconceito
Não gosto de prejudicar ninguém.
I don’t like to cause harm to anyone.
preservativo
condom
preservative
conservante
Os preservativos são normalmente feitos de látex.
Condoms are normally made of latex.
pretender
intend
pretend
fingir; fazer de conta
Ele pretende casar comigo.
He intends to marry me.
puxar
pull
push
empurrar
Tens de puxar para abrir a porta.
You must pull to open the door.
queque
muffin
cake
bolo
Comi um queque de cenoura.
I ate a carrot muffin.
recordar
remember
record
gravar
Recordas-te de mim?
Do you remember me?
refrigerante
soda, refrigerant
refrigerant
refrigerante
Tomas um refrigerante
Would you like a soda?
resumir
summarize
resume
continuar
Podes resumir a história em menos de 150 palavras?
Can you summarize the story in fewer than 150 words?
retirar
withdraw
retire
reformar; aposentar
O tribunal retirou-me o direito à casa.
The court withdrew my right to the house.
romance
novel; also romance
romance
romance; românicas (languages)
Que romance estás a ler agora?
Which novel are you reading now?
sensível
sensitive
sensible
sensato
Ela é uma pessoa sensível.
She is a sensitive person.
suportar
put out with
support
apoiar
Não o suporto!
I can’t put up with him.
taxa
rate; fee
tax
imposto
A taxa de desemprego anda baixa.
The unemployment rate has been low.
transpiração 
perspiration
transpiration
transpiração vegetal 
A transpiração permite ao nosso corpo regular a sua temperatura.
Perspiration enables our bodies to self-regulate their temperature.
ultimamente
lately
ultimately
em última análise 
Ultimamente tem estado muito calor.
It’s been really hot lately.

Reading tips! The following is also a list, though one of a different kind: 38 Quick Tips to Improve Your Portuguese.

Get my guide "Key Strategies to Learn Portuguese" for FREE.

Magnet Key Strategies

Olá! I'm Pedro and I'm your Portuguese teacher.

Learning European Portuguese? Portuguesepedia is an all-in-one platform providing a wealth of learning resources, from bite-sized video lessons to immersive idiomatic dips. Perfect your pronunciation and listening comprehension with listening drills and solidify your grammar with in-depth articles. Start your Portuguese journey today!

Share this article

Get my guide "Key Strategies to Learn Portuguese" for FREE.

Magnet Key Strategies