False friends in Portuguese: Words that look similar to English, but are NOT.

We’re not talking about people, but words!

Oi! Tudo bem?

If you’ve taken Portuguese classes, you might have come across many words that looked quite similar to English. As a result, this really helps us memorise the words and understand what the message is trying to convey. These words are called cognates (cognatos).

Cognates in Portuguese and English:

  • problem (EN) / problema (PT)
  • hospital (EN) / hospital (PT)
  • car (EN) / carro (PT)
  • park (EN) / parque (PT)
  • television (EN) / televisão (PT)
  • computer (EN) / computador (PT)

However, some words might look similar, but they have completely different meanings. They can trick you and you might understand the opposite of what the messenger is trying to say. These are called false cognates or false friends (falsos cognatos).

False cognates in Portuguese and English:

Atual Actual x
Current ✓
Apontar To appoint x
To point ✓
AtenderTo attend x
To answer (the phone, the door) ✓
Bife Beef x
Steak ✓
ChefeChef x
Boss ✓
ColégioCollege x
School ✓
CostumeCostume x
Custom ✓
ChuteShoot x
Kick ✓
DecepçãoDeception x
Disappointment ✓
DivertirTo divert x
To amuse ✓
Efetivo Effective x
Permanent ✓
EnrolarTo enrol x
To stall / to roll ✓
EstadoEstate x
State ✓
EventualmenteEventually x
Occasionally ✓
Esquisito Exquisite x
Weird ✓
FábricaFabric x
Factory ✓
FatoFate x
Fact ✓
FiguraFigure x
Picture ✓
FilaFile x
Queue ✓
GripeGrip x
The flu ✓
Azar Hazard x
Bad luck ✓
IdiomaIdiom x
Language ✓
InjúriaInjury x
Insult ✓
EntenderTo intend x
To understand ✓
JarraJar x
Jug ✓
Jornal Journal x
Newspaper ✓
LâmpadaLamp x
Light bulb ✓
LargoLarge x
Wide ✓
LivrariaLibrary x
Bookshop ✓
LancheLunch x
Snack ✓
MaiorMayor x
Bigger ✓
MiserávelMiserable x
Mean ✓
NotíciaNotice x
News ✓
NovelaNovel x
Soap opera ✓
ParenteParent x
Relative ✓
PastaPasta x
Folder ✓
PipaPipe x
Kite ✓
Prejuízo Prejudice x
Damage, loss ✓
PreservativoPreservative x
Condom ✓
PretenderTo pretend x
To fake ✓
PróprioProper x
Own ✓ 
PuxarTo push x
To pull ✓
RealizarTo realise x
To carry out, to accomplish ✓
ReclamarTo reclaim x
To complain ✓
RecordarTo record x
To remember ✓
ResumirTo resume x
To summarise ✓
RetiradoRetired x
Removed ✓
RimRim x
Kidney ✓
Sensível Sensible x
Sensitive ✓
SorteTo sort x
Luck ✓
SimpáticoSympathetic x
Friendly ✓
TossirTo toss x
To cough ✓
TutorTutor x
Guardian, curator ✓
UltimamenteUltimately x
Lately, recently ✓
VegetaisVegetables x
Plants ✓

Therefore, if you wish to put these words into practice, book Brazilian Portuguese classes or European Portuguese classes with us! We have qualified teachers who can help you master this beautiful language! You can have online classes due to COVID-19 but as soon as restrictions are eased, your classes can take place in public libraries across Melbourne. Contact us now!

Luciana Veloso

Leave a Reply