false cognate

[ fawls-kog-neyt ]
/ ˈfɔls ˈkɒg neɪt /

noun Linguistics.

a word in one language that is similar in form or sound to a word in another language but has a different meaning and is not etymologically related: for example, Spanish burro “donkey” and Italian burro “butter” are false cognates.
(loosely) a word in one language that is similar in form or sound to a word in another language but has a different meaning and may or may not be etymologically related; a false friend.

QUIZZES

GEE WHILLIKERS! WAIT TILL YOU SEE THIS WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ!

Do you remember all the words from last week, September 21–27, 2020? Then this quiz should be butyraceous.
Question 1 of 7
What does “yare” mean?

Origin of false cognate

First recorded in 1930–35

words often confused with false cognate

Cognates are words that are etymologically related, or descended from the same language or form. In proper usage, false cognates are words whose similarity in form or sound may be coincidental or the result of mutual influence; but they are not etymologically related. However, the term false cognate is often loosely used as a synonym of false friend, and so would include words that are or are not actual cognates. The confusion perhaps arises because etymologies are not transparent to the average person, or because false cognates as strictly defined are much rarer than false friends.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH false cognate

false cognate , false friend (see confusables note at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020