Most common Spanish cognates you might already know

Most common Spanish cognates you might already know

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 4, 2022

Spanish cognates are a fun and easy way to increase your Spanish vocabulary. Cognates are words that share meaning and spelling with another language. If you speak English, you are in luck! Spanish and English share many cognates. 

While learning Spanish cognates will help you improve your Spanish skills, we have to be careful. There are false cognates – AKA false friends – which are words that look similar but have different meanings.

In this article, you will learn the difference between true and false cognates in Spanish. We’ll look at some examples to help you increase your Spanish vocabulary

Learn languages at your pace

What are Spanish cognates? 

Spanish cognates are words that sound the same or similar in English and mean the same thing in Spanish. For example, hospital in Spanish means the same as “hospital” in English. The only difference is using a Spanish accent

  • English: /HOSS-pih-dəl/
  • Spanish: /oh-spee-TAHL/

All cognates across languages have the same root word. Many English words originate from Latin. Spanish is a Latin language, so they share many cognates. 

True vs. false cognates in Spanish

While Spanish cognates will improve your vocabulary and conversation skills, be careful! There are also false cognates in Spanish. 

A true cognate is a word in Spanish that has similar spelling, pronunciation and meaning. For example, información means information.

Perfect cognates are words that are spelled exactly the same: hospital, doctor, actor, tropical, capital, chocolate, festival, individual, similar, total. The only difference is the pronunciation

Now, let’s talk about “false friends.” False cognates are words that look the same but have a different meaning in English and Spanish. This is where you can get into trouble! In Spanish, we say ¡Aguas! or Waters! (Watch out!).

embarazadaYou might think this means embarrassed, but it means pregnant! Embarrassed in Spanish is avergonzado.
introducirYou might think this means to introduce, but no! It means to insert. Introduce in Spanish is presentar.
asistirI don’t blame you for thinking this means to assist, but it means to attend. This false cognate has an opposite pair. Assist in Spanish is atender or ayudar.
sopaYou need to wash your hands and you ask for some sopa. You might be surprised to know you will receive soup. Soap in Spanish is jabón.

Learn languages at your pace

18 Spanish cognates to learn today

There are tons of Spanish cognates. The most common cognates are grouped by spelling changes.

Cognates that change -tion to –ción. 

  1. Información means information. /een-fohr-mah-SYOHN/

    Example: Esta información es muy importante. (This information is very important.)

  1. Celebración means celebration. /seh-leh-brah-SYOHN/

Example: La celebración de Navidad es especial. (The Christmas celebration is special.)

  1.  Nación means nation. /nah-SYOHN/

Example: Los EEUU es una nación joven. (The United States is a young nation.)

Cognates that change -nt to -nte

  1. Accident means accident. /ahk-see-DEHN-teh/

Example: Había un accidente en la calle. (There was an accident in the street.)

  1. Presidente means president. /preh-see-DEHN- teh/

Example: El presidente va a visitar la gente. (The president is going to visit the people.)

  1.  Brilliante means brilliant. /bree-YAHN-teh/

Example: Eres brillante y bella. (You are brilliant and beautiful.)

Cognates that change -ate to –ar

  1.  Terminar means terminate. /tehr-mee-NAHR/

Example: ¿Cuándo van a terminar el contrato? When are they going to terminate/end/finish the contract?

  1.  Negociar means negotiate. /neh-goh-SYAHR/

Example: Necesito negociar la renta. (I need to negotiate the rent.)

  1.  Evaluar means evaluate. /eh-bah-LWAHR/

Example: Van a evaluar los resultados. (They are going to evaluate the results.) 

Cognates that end in -o

  1.  Artístico means artistic. /ahr-TEES-tee-koh/

Example: No tengo ningún talento artístico. (I have absolutely no artistic talent.)

  1.  Tóxico means toxic. /TOHK-see-koh/

Example: La tierra cerca de la fábrica es tóxica. (The land near the factory is toxic.)  

  1.  Básico means basic. /BAH-see-koh/

Example: El restaurante es básico pero delicioso. (The restaurant is basic but delicious.) 

Cognates that add an -ar or -ir

  1.  Adaptar means adapt. /ah-dahp-TAHR

Example: Puede adaptar su dieta. (You can adapt your diet.)

  1.  Admitir means admit. /ahd-mee-TEER/

Example: Tienen que admitir que hay un problema. (They have to admit there is a problem.)

  1.  Representar means represent. /rreh-preh-sehn-TAHR/

Example: Voy a representar a mi mamá en la corte. (I am going to represent my mother in court. 

Cognates that change -ly to -mente or -ely to -amente

  1.  Completamente means completely. /kohm-plehtah-MEHN-teh/

Example: Mi coche es completamente seguro. (My car is completely safe.)

  1.  Absolutamente means absolutely. /ahb-soh-loo-tah-MEHN-teh/

Example: ¿Quieres ir a la fiesta? ¡Absolutamente! (Do you want to go to the party? Absolutely!)

  1.  Normalmente means normally. /nohr-mahl-MEHN-teh/

Example: Normalmente duermo a las 10. (Normally, I go to sleep at 10.)

Grow your vocabulary with cognates

Spanish cognates are an easy and quick way to improve your Spanish vocabulary. Remember the spelling patterns and watch out for false friends! With a little study and practice, you will even be able to guess real words in Spanish based on English vocabulary. Get ready for the conversation to flow!

Learn languages at your pace

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her tech copywriting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Related articles