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False Friends in German

German-English falsche Freunde - False Cognates

German Words That Aren’t What They Seem

An annotated German-English Glossary of
Common False Cognates and Misleading Expressions

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A "false cognate" is a word in one language that is identical or similar to a word in another language, but does not mean the same thing. For instance, both German and English have the word fast, but the German word means "almost." This is a glossary of the many German-English "false friends" and other words that can be confusing. But don't forget that there are also many genuine cognates shared by German and English. (Note: Technically and linguistically, cognate words have the same root or "ancestor," but for our purposes we mean any "false friend" that can confuse people learning a second language because of its close resemblance to a word in their own language.)

Introduction | A-F | G-L | M-Q | R-Z | Quiz
Denglisch: When Languages Collide

Noun genders indicated by: r (der, masc.), e (die, fem.), s (das, neu.)


A

absolvieren  to complete a course or exam | absolve = lossprechen

e Achsel  shoulder | axle = e Achse

r Advokat  attorney, lawyer | advocate = r Befürworter

r After  rectum | after = nach, nachher

r Akt  nude (artwork); act (theater) | act (deed) = e Tat

e Aktion  campaign, drive (fundraising, etc.); operation (military)
   action = s Handeln; e Action (movie)
   ein Mann der Tat = a man of action

aktuell  current, (the) latest, up-to-date | actual(ly) = eigentlich, wirklich

alle Tage  every day | all day = den ganzen Tag

e Allee  boulevard, avenue | alley = e Gasse, r Durchgang

e Allüren (pl.)  affectation, airs; behavior | allure(s) = e Verlockung, e Charme

r Almanach  publisher's annual book catalog | almanac = historisches Jahrbuch

also  thus, therefore | also = auch

e Ambulanz  outpatient department | ambulance = r Rettungswagen/r Ambulanzwagen

e Angina  sore throat, tonsillitis | angina (pectoris) = e Angina Pectoris

apart  distinctive, unusual | apart = auseinander; abseits; getrennt

s Argument  point, reasoned argument | argument, quarrel = r Streit

e Art  kind, manner, type | art = e Kunst

r Artist  circus or theatrical performer only | artist = r Künstler

False-Friend Flashcards
Vocabulary practice!
Denglisch: When Languages Collide
Deutsch + Englisch = Denglisch


B

s Bad  bath, spa; bathroom (not toilet!) | bad adj. = schlecht

bald  soon | bald = kahl, glatzköpfig
   Er hat eine Glatze. = He's bald.

bang  adj. freightened; uneasy | bang n. = r Knall
bangen  to be afraid/concerned | bang = knallen, r Knall

bannen  v. to bewitch, captivate; excommunicate | ban = verbieten, s Verbot

r Beamer  LCD projector, digital projector
  Note: This German Anglizismus has a completely different meaning than the American term referring to a German BMW car!

bekommen  to get, receive | to become = werden

e Billion  trillion | (US) billion = e Milliarde

s/r Biskuit  sponge (cake/dough) | biscuit (cookie) = r Keks, (Amer.) (weiches) Brötchen

(sich) blamieren  to disgrace, embarrass; make a fool of oneself | blame = e Schuld, jm. die Schuld geben

blenden  to dazzle; fade (cinema); blind, hoodwink | blend = mischen

r Body Bag  sling (one-shoulder) backpack | body bag = r Leichensack
   Note: Body Bag is one of the more unfortunate Denglisch Body terms. Most of these faux English words in German are just funny: Body-Shop (drug store), Bodywear (underwear).

e Box  speaker (stereo system), electrical junction box | box = r Kasten

r Brand  fire, blaze | brand = e Marke

brav  good, well-behaved | brave = tapfer, mutig

Also see
False Cognates: Introduction
and
False-Friend Flashcards
Vocabulary practice!

(Note: Technically and linguistically, cognate words have the same root or "ancestor," but for our purposes we mean any "false friend" that can confuse people learning a second language because of its close resemblance to a word in their own language.)


C

r Catcher  (pro) wrestler | catcher (baseball, etc.) = r Fänger

r Chef  boss, head of the department | chef = r Chefkoch, Küchenchef, Koch

e City  downtown, city center | city, town = e Stadt


D

delikat  difficult, tricky; careful(ly); exquisite, subtle | delicate = empfindlich, fein, zart
   Note: German delikat can mean many things, but is almost never used in the sense of "delicate" (breakable, sensitive, fine) in English - with the possible exception of a "delicate (subtle) aroma" or a "delicate (tricky) situation." It is related to Delikatessen.

s Desinteresse  lack of interest | disinterest (impartiality) = e Unvoreingenommenheit, e Unparteilichkeit
desinteressiert  uninterested, bored (look) | disinterested (impartial) = unvoreingenommen, unparteiisch, uneigennützig

devot  (adj., literary) obsequious; humble (obs.) | devoted = treu, liebend; gewidmet

dezent  discreet(ly), subdued, unobtrusive | decent = anständig, ordentlich

e Diäten pl.  per diem, parliamentary allowance | diet = e Diät (-en)

e Direktion  administration (office), management (office) | direction = e Richtung

e Distanz  aloofness, coldness; distance (social, sport) | distance = e Entfernung

r Dom  cathedral | dome = e Kuppel

e Dose  can, tin | dose = e Dosis


E

s Etikett  label | etiquette = e Etikette

eventuell  possibly, maybe | eventually = endlich, schließlich

r Evergreen  old musical standard, classic song | evergreen = immergrün (adj.), r Nadelbaum (tree)

e Expertise  report (by experts) | expertise = r Sachverstand

s Exposé  outline, draft, plan (film, literature, dissertation); book/film proposal; plot plan, property description (architecture, real estate) | exposé = e Aufdeckung

extravagant  flamboyant, stylish, sophisticated (tastes) | extravagant = verschwenderisch, übertrieben

e Extravaganz  flamboyance, high style

False Friends Quiz 1
and
Confusing Words and Expressions
in German


F

e Fabrik  factory | fabric = r Stoff, s Gewebe

fade  boring, insipid, dull | to fade = verblassen

familiär  family-related; informal | familiar (well-known) = bekannt, vertraut
   Er hat familiäre Probleme. = He has family problems.

e Fantasie/Phantasie imagination | fantasy = r Tagtraum

fast  almost | fast = schnell; fasten (go without food)

s Formular  form (to fill out) | formula = e Formel

r Fotograf  photographer | photograph = s Foto, e Fotografie

e Fraktion  faction, political party/group | fraction = r Bruchteil

NEXT > G-L - More falsche Freunde!

QUIZ 1 > False Friends Quiz 1
QUIZ 2 > False Friends Quiz 2

MORE > Denglisch: When Languages Collide + Denglisch Dictionary

Also see: English-German Cognates (genuine cognates)

Introduction | A-F | G-L | M-Q | R-Z | Quiz
Denglisch: When Languages Collide

(Note: Technically and linguistically, cognate words have the same root or "ancestor," but for our purposes we mean any "false friend" that can confuse people learning a second language because of its close resemblance to a word in their own language.)


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