Dictionary.com

false cognate

[ fawls-kog-neyt ]
/ ˈfɔls ˈkɒg neɪt /
Save This Word!

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.
QUIZ
TEST YOUR MERIT ON THESE NEW WORDS IN 2021
The Dictionary added new words and definition to our vast collection, and we want to see how well-versed you are in the formally recognized new lingo. Take the quiz!
Question 1 of 8
What does JEDI stand for?
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help

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. 2021

How to use false cognate in a sentence

FEEDBACK