Definition: Cognate Words are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation.

Where Do Cognate Words Come From?

As you may or may not know, English is a language that has many borrowed words, especially from Latin. This is due to the fact that in 1066 AD there was a Norman invasion of England and Normans would speak a language that was closer to Latin than it was to Modern-Day French. So what essentially happened was that the English language began to evolve and accommodate the vocabulary of the Normans. 

When learning Spanish, it is important to acknowledge that both English and Spanish both have cognates because they both have words that come from Latin. 

Have you ever been in a conversation or at a conference and a word in English has been said, and your brain goes into translation mode? It has happened to me, where I hear a word in English and think, “Hey! I know what that word is in Spanish!” and then I am able to understand. I will give you an example:

Abnegation = Abnegacion 

It means to “Voluntarily renounce desires, beliefs, interests as a benefit for others.” 

I had heard this word often in Spanish but never in English, so when I heard it at a conference, I was able to use my Spanish knowledge to understand what the speaker was trying to convey. 

False Cognates

But not all words are Cognates, there is such a thing as False Cognates. Here are some examples of False Cognates:

Ejemplos que NO son Cognados

≠ No Son Cognados  

Actual Spanish Word

1. Actually ≠ Actualmente  
2. Fabric ≠ Fabrica
3. Pretend ≠ Pretender
4. Argument ≠ Argumento
5. Library ≠ Libreria
6. Realize ≠ Realizar
7. Embarrassed ≠ Embarazada

1. Realmente
2. Tela
3. Fingir
4. Discusión
5. Biblioteca
6. Darse Cuenta
7. Apenado

Quick Anecdote

I had a friend share a story of when she went to visit her future in-laws in Mexico. When she tried to say that she was embarrassed in Spanish, and said the word “Embarazada” instead (which means Pregnant) let’s just say it was a jaw-dropping moment where she then had to explain that she was not in fact pregnant. 

Perfect Cognates

Here are some Perfect Cognates:

-or

  1. Actor
  2. Anterior
  3. Doctor
  4. Director
  5. Factor
  6. Horror

-al

  1. Artificial
  2. Universal
  3. Normal
  4. Original
  5. Personal
  6. Plural

-ble

  1. Admirable
  2. Flexible
  3. Invisible
  4. Terrible
  5. Horrible
  6. Abominable

-ion

  1. Confusion
  2. Decision
  3. Extension
  4. Region
  5. Religion
  6. Reunion

Near Perfect Cognates

The following are Near Perfect Cognates:

-ary

  1. Contrary = Contrario
  2. Adversary = Adversario
  3. Salary = Salario
  4. Secretary = Secretario
  5. Temporary = Temporario
  6. Vocabulary = Vocabulario
  7. Commentary = Comentario

-tion

  1. Application = Aplicacion
  2. Attention = Atencion
  3. Nation = Nacion
  4. Dedication = Dedicacion
  5. Collection = Coleccion
  6. Association = Associacion
  7. Education = Educacion

-ic

  1. Authentic = Autentico
  2. Classic = Clásico
  3. Diplomatic = Diplomático
  4. Economic = Economico
  5. Fantastic = Fantastico
  6. Magic = Mágico

-ct

  1. Dialect = Dialecto
  2. Effect = Efecto
  3. Abstract = Abstracto
  4. Artifact = Artifacto
  5. Contact = Contacto
  6. Insect = Insecto

-ous

  1. Delicious = Delicioso
  2. Precious = Precioso
  3. Religious =Religioso
  4. Curious = Curioso
  5. Mysterious = Misterioso
  6. Fastidious = Fastidioso

Recommendation

Google Translate, English/Spanish Dictionary, or make a list of words that you use often to remind you of True Cognates.  If you are trying to learn Spanish, then understanding Cognate words will make your journey a little smoother.


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