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Spanish-Portuguese False Friends to Keep an Eye Out For

Spanish and Portuguese are both Romance languages sharing the same Latin root. As a result, there are thousands of Spanish and Portuguese words that look and sound similar and mean pretty much the same thing.

There are cases, nonetheless, where semantics have grown apart as time went by, which led to what we call false friends

Accordingly, false friends (aka false cognates) are words that look and sound similar but mean different things. 

Now, words in this category don’t necessarily mean totally different things in either language. 

There are many cases where they merely represent different shades of the same original meaning. Although used in different contexts, they are still semantically relatable.

Also, a Portuguese word can have two meanings of which the one with the least currency matches the dominant meaning of the Spanish cognate (and vice versa). These word-pairs are often labeled as false friends as well.    

With that said, let’s look at a few common Spanish-Portuguese false friends. 

Reading tips! Here’s an analogous read for English-Portuguese false friends: 50+ English-Portuguese False Friends to Keep an Eye Out For

Common Spanish-Portuguese False Friends

SpanishPortuguese
1acordarse
recall; remember
acordar
wake up
2barata
cockroach; cheap
barata
cheap
3cadera
hip
cadeira
chair
4cena
dinner
cena
scene
5embarazada
embarrassed; ashamed
embaraçada
pregnant
6escoba
broom
escova
brush
7escritorio
desk
escritório
office
8exquisitoesquisito
9largo
long
largo
large
10oficina
office
oficina
workshop
11polvo
dust
polvo
octopus
12propina
tip
propina
tuition fee (pt-pt); bribery (pt-br)*
13rato
a little while
rato
mouse
14rojo
red
roxo
purple
15rubio
blond
ruivo
redhead, ginger
16traer
bring
trair
betray

* Read the following article to learn more about how European and Brazilian Portuguese compare: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They, Really?

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