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Faux amis - A

French English False Cognates


One of the great things about learning French or English is that many words have the same roots in the Romance languages and English. However, there are also a great many faux amis, or false cognates, which look similar but have different meanings. This is one of the biggest pitfalls for students of French. There are also "semi-false cognates": words that can only sometimes be translated by the similar word in the other language.

This alphabetical list (newest additions) includes hundreds of French-English false cognates, with explanations of what each word means and how it can be correctly translated into the other language. To avoid confusion due to the fact that some of the words are identical in the two languages, the French word is followed by (F) and the English word is followed by (E).

Abandon (F) vs Abandon (E)

     Abandon (F) is a noun that means abandonment, desertion, neglect, or giving up. It can also mean abandon, especially with a verb: danser avec abandon - to dance with abandon. Abandonner = to abandon.
     Abandon (E) = abandon.

Habileté (F) vs Ability (E)

     Habileté (F) refers to a skill, cleverness, a talent, or a skillful move.
     Ability (E) is a similar but weaker term, translatable by une aptitude, une capacité, or une compétence.

Abus (F) vs Abuse (E)

     Abus (F) can mean abuse, excess, or injustice.
     Abuse (E) = abus, while verbal abuse is des injures or insultes.

Abuser (F) vs Abuse (E)

     Abuser (F) means to exploit, abuse, take advantage of, deceive, or mislead. S'abuser means to be mistaken or to delude oneself.
     Abuse (E) can be translated by abuser, injurier, insulter, or maltraiter.

Accéder (F) vs Accede (E)

     Accéder (F) means to reach, attain, get to, access.
     Accede (E) has three different meanings. (1) to agree/accept: agréer, accepter. (2) to take on a new position: entrer en possession/fonction. (3) to join: adhérer, se joindre.

Accidenté (F) vs Accidental (E)

     Accidenté (F) can be an adjective: hilly, undulating, or damaged - or a noun: casualty, injured person. Accidenter means to injure or damage.
     Accidental (E) means accidentel (bad) or fortuit (good).

Achèvement (F) vs Achievement (E)

     Achèvement (F) refers to the completion or culmination of something.
     Achievement (E) has a more positive sense of attaining something that was sought after: exploit, réussite, accomplissement.

Achever (F) vs Achieve (E)

     Achever (F) usually means to finish, end, complete, reach. It can also be more figurative: to finish off, destroy, kill.
     Achieve (E) = accomplir, réaliser, atteindre.

Acompte (F) vs Account (E)

     Acompte (F) refers to a deposit, down payment, or installment.
     Account (E) = un compte.

Action (F) vs Action (E)

     Action (F) can mean action as well as act or a share of stock.
     Action (E) = action or effet.

Actuellement (F) vs Actually (E)

     Actuellement (F) means at the present time, and should be translated as currently or right now. Je travaille actuellement - I am currently working. A related word is actuel, which means present or current: le problème actuel - the current/present problem.
     Actually (E) means "in fact" and should be translated as en fait or à vrai dire. Actually, I don't know him - En fait, je ne le connais pas. Actual means real or true, and depending on the context can be translated as réel, véritable, positif, or concret: The actual value - la valeur réelle.

Adepte (F) vs Adept (E)

     Adepte (F) is a noun: follower or enthusiast.
     Adept (E) is an adjective: compétent or expert.

Addition (F) vs Addition (E)

     Addition (F) can refer to addition, a sum, or a restaurant check or bill.
     Addition (E) = une addition, une augmentation, or un surcroît.

Ado (F) vs Ado (E)

     Ado (F) is an apocope of adolescent - teen or teenager.
     Ado (E) is a somewhat rare word that is equivalent to agitation or bruit (figuratively)

Adresse (F) vs Address (E)

     Adresse (F) can refer to a mailing, email, or spoken address or to deftness, skill, or dexterity.
     Address (E) = une adresse or un discours.

Affaire (F) vs Affair (E)

     Affaire (F) can mean business, matter, deal, transaction, or scandal.
     Affair (E) is the equivalent of affaire only in the sense of an event or concern. A love affair is une liaison, une affaire d'amour, or une aventure amoureuse.

Affluence (F) vs Affluence (E)

     Affluence (F) is a crowd of people: Il y avait une affluence attendant à la porte - There were crowds waiting at the door.
     Affluence (E) indicates a lot of something (usually wealth): There's an affluence of information here - Il y a une abondance d'information ici. His affluence is obvious - Sa richesse est évidente.
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