Spanish Cognates: Unlock Hundreds Of Words You Already Know

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One of the fantastic things about learning Spanish as an English speaker is that before you even begin studying the language, there are hundreds of words that you already know.

It’s simply a matter of unlocking the Spanish within.

Introducing: Cognates.


A cognate is a word in your native language that shares the same origin as a word from a different language, making it easy to recognize even if you don’t speak the other language.

In this case, Spanish and English share Latin roots, and so there are a plethora of words that are the same or very close in both languages, meaning, by extension, that there are hundreds of words that you already know even if you never studied Spanish before.

What Are The Spanish Cognates?

Now that we have established what we mean by cognates, we can look at how to identify them. Remember, cognates tend to look quite similar, and often (but not always) mean the exact same thing.

Once you are aware of the pronunciation rules of Spanish, learning cognates is a fantastic hack to boost your Spanish vocabulary overnight.

There are three different types of cognates that you should be aware of.

  • Perfect cognates are words that are identical in both English and Spanish.
  • Near perfect cognates are words which look similar in both languages and mean the same thing, but require a simple formula to convert from English to Spanish.
  • False cognates, also known as “false friends”, are words that are spelled the same or similar, but have a completely different meaning.

“False friends” is a fitting name for the last category, as these cognates are the ones that are most likely to cause you some confusion, and when used incorrectly, make you look a bit silly.

For example, a common mistake among Spanish students is confusing the Spanish word “embarazada” for “embarrassed”, when in fact it means “pregnant”.

You can see how that false friend could create easily create an awkward situation for you.

Now that we know about the different types of cognates, we’re going to list the most common vocabulary for each category.

Perfect Cognates

These words are the exact same in both languages.  

A 1. Actor 2.  Admirable 3. Agenda
4.   Alcohol 5.   Altar   6.   Animal 7.   Área
8.   Artificial 9.   Auto
B 10.  Balance 11. Bar 12.  Base
13.  Brutal
C 14.  Cable 15.  Canal 16.  Cáncer
17.  Canon 18.  Capital 19.  Carbón 20.  Cartón
21.  Central 22.  Cerebral                 23.  Chocolate               24.  Circular
25.  Civil     26.  Club   27.  Collar 28.  Colonial                  
29.  Coma 30.  Combustión 31.  Conclusión 32.  Conductor
33.  Confusión 34.  Considerable 35.  Control 36.  Cordial
37.  Criminal 38.  Crisis 39.  Cultural  
D 40.  Debate 41.  Decisión 42.  Diagonal  
43.  Dimensión 44.  Director 45.  Disco 46.  División  
47.  Doctor 48.  Drama    
E 49.  Editorial     50.  Electoral 51.  Elemental
52.  Enigma 53.  Error 54.  Excursión 55.  Experimental
56.  Explosión 57.  Expulsión 58.  Extensión 59.  Exterior
F 60.  Factor 61.  Familiar   62.  Fatal
63.  Federal 64.  Festival 65.  Final 66.  Flexible
67.  Formal 68.  Fórmula 69.  Frontal 70.  Fundamental              
G             71.  Gala 72.  Gas 73.  General  
74.  Génesis 75.  Global                   76.  Grave
I 83.  Idea 84.  Ideal 85.  Imperial  
86.  Implacable 87.  Incursión 88.  Individual 89.  Industrial
90.  Inevitable 91.  Inferior   92.  Informal 93.  Inseparable
94.  Inspector 95.  Interminable 96.  Invasión 97.  Invisible
98.  Irregular  
J 99.  Judicial
K 100.  Kilo
L 101. Lateral 102. Legal 103. Liberal
104. Literal   105. Local
M 106. Macho 107.  Maestro 108.  Mango
109.  Manía 110.  Manual 111.  Marginal 112.  Mate
113.  Material 114.  Matrimonial 115.  Medieval 116.  Mediocre        
117.  Melón 118.  Mental 119.  Menú 120.  Metal
121.  Miserable 122.  Moral 123.  Mortal 124.  Motel
125.  Motor 126.  Múltiple   127.  Municipal   128.  Musical
N 129.   Natural 130.   Noble 131.   Normal
132.  Nostalgia
O 133.  Ópera 134.  Oral 135.  Oriental
136.  Original
P        137.  Panorama 138.  Particular 139.  Pasta
140.  Pastor 141.  Patio 142.  Patrón 143. Peculiar
144.  Penal 145. Perfume 146.  Personal 147.  Peseta
148.  Piano 149.  Plaza 150.  Plural 151.  Popular
152.  Pretensión 153.  Principal 154.  Probable 155.  Propaganda
156.  Protector 157.  Provincial
R 158.  Radical 159.  Radio 160.  Región
161.  Regional 162.  Regular 163.  Religión 164. Revisión  
165.  Reunión 166.  Ritual 167.  Rural
S 168.   Secular 169.   Sentimental 170.   Serial
171.   Sexual 172.   Similar 173.   Simple 174.   Singular
175.   Social 176.   Solar 177.   Solo 178.   Subversión
179.  Superficial 180.  Superior
T 181.  Taxi 182.  Televisión 183.  Terrible
184.  Terror 185.  Total 186.Transcendental 187. Triple
188. Tropical
U 189.  Unión 190.  Universal 191.  Usual
V 192.  Verbal 193.  Versión 194.  Vertical
195.  Violín 196.  Visible 197.  Visual 198.  Vital
199.  Vulgar 200.  Vulnerable


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 Near Perfect Cognates

Near perfect cognates are words that mean the same thing, and can be converted from English to Spanish by applying a simple rule – although the rule is not applicable in every single case.

Below we are going to review the most common rules, and the words that you can apply these rules to.

But first, let’s see an example of each rule in action:

  • information (tion) to información (ción)
  • anniversary (ary) to Aniversario (ario)
  • basic (ic) to básico (ico)
  • curious (ous) to curioso (oso)
  • abstract (ct) to abstracto (cto)

Words ending – tion

English words ending ‘tion’ can be converted to Spanish by replacing the ending with ‘ción’,

English Spanish
201. Abstraction Abstracción
202. Action Acción
203. Accusation Acusación
204. Adaptation Adaptación
205. Admiration Admiración
206. Application Aplicación
207. Appreciation Apreciación
208. Association Asociación
209. Aspiration Aspiración
210. Attention Atención
211. Attraction Atracción
212. Authorization Autorización
213. Celebration Celebración
214. Circulation Circulación
215. Civilization Civilización
216. Classification Clasificación
217. Collaboration Colaboración
218. Collection Colección
219. Combination Combinación
220. Compensation Compensación
221. Composition Composición
222. Concentration Concentración
223. Conception Concepción
224. Condition Condición
225. Conservation Conservación
226. Consideration Consideración
227. Constitution Constitución
228. Construction Construcción
229. Exposition Exposición
230. Fiction Ficción
231. Formation Formación
232. Nation Nación
233. Simplification Simplificación

Words ending -ary

Words ending ‘ary’ can be converted to English by replacing the ending with ‘ario’.


English Spanish
234.  Adversary Adversario
235. Anniversary Aniversario
236. Arbitrary Arbitrario
237. Commentary Comentario
238. Complementary Complementario
239.  Contrary Contrario
240. Diary Diario
241. Glossary Glosario
242. Estuary Estuario
243. Primary Primario
244. Rosary Rosario
245. Salary Salario
246. Secretary Secretario
247. Solitary Solitario
248. Vocabulary Vocabulario
249. Temporary Temporario

Words ending -ic

The same idea.

These English words ending in ‘ic’ can be converted to Spanish by replacing the ending with ‘ico’.

English Spanish
250. Academic Académico
251. Alcoholic Alcohólico
252. Artistic Artístico
253. Authentic Auténtico
254. Automatic Automático
255. Basic Básico
256. Characteristic Característico
257. Classic Clásico
258. Comic Cómico
259. Democratic Democrático
260. Dynamic Dinámico
261. Diplomatic Diplomático
262. Domestic Doméstico
263. Dramatic Dramático
264. Economic Económico
265. Electronic Electrónico
266. Erotic Erótico
267. Exotic Exótico
268. Fantastic Fantástico
269. Generic Genérico
270. Genetic Genético
271. Geometric Geométrico
272. Heroic Heroico
273. Ironic Irónico
274. Magic Mágico
275. Medic Médico
276. Mosaic Mosaico
277. Organic Orgánico
278. Panic Pánico
279. Plastic Plástico
280. Poetic Poético
281. Public Público
282. Romantic Romántico
283. Systematic Sistemático
284. Tragic Trágico

Words ending -ous

Convert English words ending ‘ous’ to Spanish by replacing the ending with ‘oso’.

English Spanish
285. Curious Curioso
286. Delicious Delicioso
287. Glorious Glorioso
288. Mysterious Misterioso
289. Numerous Numeroso
290. Precious Precioso
291. Religious Religioso
292. Tedious Tedioso

Words ending -ct

And finally, we have English words that can be converted to Spanish by replacing the ending ‘ct’ with with ‘cto’.

English Spanish
293. Abstract Abstracto
294. Act Acto
295. Artefact Artefacto
296. Compact Compacto
297. Conflict Conflicto
298. Contact Contacto
299. Correct Correcto
300. Exact Exacto
301. Except Excepto
302. Insect Insecto
303. Perfect Perfecto
304. Product Producto

Near Perfect Cognates: Best Of The Rest

There are also some near perfect cognates that don’t follow the aforementioned rules, but look similar and carry the same meaning as their English equivalent.

English Spanish
305. Abyss Abismo
306. Abundant Abundante
307. Accent Acento
308. Acid Ácido
309. Act Acto
310. Air Aire
311. Annual Anual
312. Archaic Arcaico
313. Art Arte
314. Demon Demonio
315. Disaster Desastre
316. Decade Década
317. Kiosk Kiosco
318. Chimera Quimera
319. Rare Raro
320. Rancid Rancio
321. Remote Remoto
322. Rent Renta
323. Rich Rico
324. Satire Sátira
325. Series Serie
326. Senate Senado
327. Soldier Soldado
328. Solid Sólido
329. Suffer Sufrir
330. Subtle Sutil
331. Used Usado
332. Vehicle Vehículo

False Cognates In Spanish

Let’s talk about false cognates, also known as “false friends”.

Until now, we learned about English and Spanish words that share the same meaning and also look very similar – making them easier to remember.

False cognates are words that also look similar in writing and pronunciation, but have a completely different meaning.

We are going to outline the most common false cognates that you should be aware of, along with their correct English translations and what they are commonly mistaken for.

Spanish Word

Correct English Translation

English Misinterpretation

Spanish Translation

333.  Últimamente Recently Ultimately Por último
334. Abandonar To quit To remove Quitar
335. Absoluto Absolute Absolutely Absolutamente, completamente
336. Actual Current, present-day Actual Real, efectivo
337. En realidad Actually Currently Actualmente
338. Advertencia Warning Advertisement Anuncio
339. Agonía Dying moments Agony Angustia
340. Aguacate Avocado Lawyer Abogado
341. Alcalde Mayor Bigger Mayor
342. Carpeta Folder Carpet Alfombra
343. Americano Person from North or South America American (USA) Estadounidense
344. Advertir To warn To advertise Anunciar
345. Apología Defense, eulogy Apology Disculpa
346. Imperio Empire Umpire Árbitro
347. Arena Sand Arena Anfiteatro
348. Argumento Reasoning, debate Argument Disputa
349. Asesino Murderer, killer Assassin Asesino a sueldo, Sicario
350. Asistencia Attendance Assistance Apoyo
351. Asistir To attend, be present at To assist Ayudar
352. Ayudar To assist To attend Asistir
353. Asistir To attend To attend to Atender
354. Bachillerato High school or A-level diploma Bachelor Soltero
355. Basamento Base of a column Basement Sótano
356. Biblioteca Llibrary Bookshop Librería
357. Billón (US) trillion, (UK) billion Billion (US) Mil millones
358. Bizarro Dashing, brave, gallant Bizarre Extraño
359. Blanco White Blank Vacío, Espacio en blanco
360.Blando Soft Bland Soso / Amable
361. Blindar To shield To blind Cegar
362. Bombero Firefighter Bomber Bombardero
363. Brazo Arm Gun Arma
364. Bufete Desk Buffet Bufé
365. Cacerola Pan Casserole Cazuela
366. Campo Countryside Camp Campamento
367. Cargo Post, position Cargo Carga
368. Alfombra Carpet Folder Carpeta
369. Carrera Race, journey or university study program Career Trayectoria profesional
370. Carta Letter Cart Carrito
371. Casualidad Coincidence, chance Casualty Víctima
372. Cena Dinner Money Dinero
373. Chocar Strike, collide Choke Ahogar
374. Estrangular / Ahogar To choke To collide Chocar
375. Codo Elbow Code Código
376. Colegio High School College Universidad
377. Colorado Red, reddish Colored De color
378. Compasión Sympathy Affection Simpatía
379. Complexión Constitution, temperament Complextion Tez
380. Simpático Likeable Sympathetic Comprensivo
381. Ordinario Vulgar Ordinary Común
382. Condescender To comply, agree To condescend Dignarse
383. Conductor Driver Conductor Director  (orchestral conductor)
384. Lectura Reading Lecture Conferencia
385. Preservativo Condom Preservative Conservante
386. Contestar To answer To contest Contender
387. Copa Glass, goblet, trophy Cup Vaso
388. Corresponder To agree with, to match To correspond (in writing) Escribirse
389. Corrientemente Fluently, plainly, flatly Currently Actualmente
390. Horno Oven Horn Cuerno
391. Cuerpo Body Wedding Boda
392. Culto Educated Cult De culto
393. Damnificado Victim Damned Maldito
394. Realizar To make To realize Darse cuenta
395. Decepción Disappointment Deception Engaño, mentira, llusion
396. Decepcionar To disappoint To deceive Engañar
397. Delito Crime Delight Delicia, deleite
398. Desconocido Stranger Foreigner Extranjero
399. Desesperado Desperate To wake up Despertar
400. Desgracia Mistake, misfortune Disgrace Vergüenza
401. Destituido Fired, deprived Destitute Indigente
402. Diversión Fun Diversion Desviación
403. Cartón Cardboard Cartoon Dibujos animados
404. Argumento (de un libro) Plot Argument Discusión
405. Discutir To debate, to argue To discuss Hablar de
406. Disgusto Annoyance, worry Disgust Asco, repugnancia
407. Dormitorio Bedroom Dormitory Residencia universitaria
408. Intoxicado Food poisoning Intoxicated Ebrio
409. Echar To throw, to pour To echo Resonar
410. Educación Upbringing Education La formación
411. Educado Polite Educated Culto
412. Elevador Hoist Elevator Ascensor
413. Embarazada Pregnant Embarrassed Avergonzada
414. Emocionante Exciting Emotional Sensible
415. Empresa Business enterprise, company Empress Emperatriz
416. En absoluto Not at all Absolutely Totalmente
417. Ensalada Salad Salty Salado
418. Enviar To send To envy Envidiar
419. Estimado Esteemed Estimate Estimación, presupuesto
420. Estrechar To narrow, bring closer together Stretch Estirar, largar
421. Asesoría Assessment Consultancy Evaluación
422. Eventual Possible, temporary Eventual Definitivo
423. Excitar To arouse To excite Entusiasmar
424. Éxito Success Exit Salida
425. Falta Absence, shortage, lack Fault Defecto  (imperfection); culpa  (guilt)
426. Dato Data Date Fecha
427. Terrorífico Terrifying Terrific Fenomenal, genial
428. Firma Signature Firm Empresa
429. Formulario Form Shape Forma
430. Fútbol Soccer Football Fútbol americano
431. Ganga Bargain Gang Pandilla
432. Balón Ball Balloon Globo
433. Grabar To save, to record To grab Asir, Tomar, Agarrar
434. Gracioso Funny Gracious Cortés
435. Largo Long Large Grande
436. Grosería Grossness, crudeness Grocery Abarrote, Comestible
437. Inhabitado Uninhabited Inhabitant Habitante
438. Humor Mood Humor Gracia
439. Idioma Language Idiom Modismo
440. Impuesto Tax Taxi Taxi
441. Ingenuidad Naivety Ingenuity Ingenio
442. Introducir Insert To introduce (someone) Presentar
443. Envolver To wrap To involve Involucrar
444. Jubilación Retirement Jubilation Júbilo
445. Barco Boat, ship Bark Ladrar o ladrido
446. Letra Letter of the alphabet; lyrics to a song Letter Carta
447. Atar To tie To attain Lograr
448. Plaza Square Place Lugar
449. Lujuria Lust Luxury Lujo
450. Curso Course Curse Maldición
451. Rudo Rough Rude Maleducado
452. Mantel Tablecloth Mantle Manto, mesilla
453. Masa Dough Mass (at church) Misa
454. Media Sock Media Medios
455. Minorista Retailer Minority Minoría
456. Molestar Bother Molest Abusar (sexualmente)
457. Negocio Business Negotiation Negociación
458. Nombre Name, noun Number Número
459. Noticia News Notice Aviso
460. Nudo Knot Nude Desnudo
461. Tarjeta Card Target Objetivo
462. Oficio Trade, function; religious service Office Oficina
463. Once Eleven Once Una vez
464. Orden Command Commando unit Comando
465. Espada Sword Spade Pala
466.Padres Parents Relatives Parientes
467. Pan Bread Pan Cacerola
468. Parada Stop, e.g. bus stop Parade Desfile
469. Parientes Relatives Relative (adjective) Relativos
470. Patrón Boss, standard Patron Patrocinador
471. Sin Without Sin Pecado
472. Plagio Plagiarism Plague Peste
473. Política Policy Police Policía
474. Postre Dessert Desert Desierto
475. Preocupado Worried Preoccupied Distraído
476. Preservativo Condom Preservative Conservador
477. Pretender To attempt, to woo To pretend Fingir
478. Procurar To manage or try (to do something) To procure Obtener
479. Apto Qualified, able Apt Propenso
480. Estar To be To stay Quedarse
481. Complacer To please To complain Quejarse
482. Quitar To take away, to get rid of To quit Dejar
483. Rapista Barber Rapist Violador
484. Real Royal Real Verdadero
485. Resumir To sum up To resume Reanudar
486. Receta Recipe, prescription Receipt Recibo
487. Recordar To remember, remind To record Grabar
488. Recuerdo Recollection Harvest Cosecha
489. Red Network, net Red Rojo
490. Restar To subtract To rest Descansar
491. Revolver To turn over Revolver Revólver
492. Ropa Clothes Rope Cuerda
493. Salario Hourly wages Salary Sueldo
 494. Salida Exit Success Éxito
495. Sano Healthy Sane Cuerdo
496. Sensible Sensitive Sensible Sensato
497. Sensiblemente Appreciably Sensibly Razonablemente
498. Sobre On, above, over Sober Sobrio
499. Sopa Soup Soap Jabón
500. Soportar To tolerate, put up with To support Apoyar

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