They are commonly called “False Friends – Falsi Amici” and we are not talking about the double-faced people we all have met in life, at one point or another. Here we are talking about the numerous confusing Italian words that, in English sound similar but have a completely different meaning.
We recently had a lesson in class focused on this topic and here you can find a list worth knowing, just to make your life easier.
False Friends – The big list
Let’s start with the easy CALDO that, in English sounds like Cold and means exactly the opposite (Hot). A false friend quickly learnt by anyone arriving in their first Hotel room in Italy! By the way, the Hotel room is a CAMERA, and has nothing to do with the device to take pictures.
If you go for a job Interview in Italy, you won’t use the word INTERVISTA (this is a journalist’s matter) but rather COLLOQUIO: un colloquio di lavoro. Un vero casino eh!? – CASINO in Italian is not a place to gamble (for that you must use the version with the final accent: un Casinò) and it means a big mess: Che casino c’è in camera di mio figlio!
Un MAGAZZINO has nothing to do with a magazine as, if you ask, you will be taken to a warehouse.
Be aware of the confusion between FABBRICA e FATTORIA. The first one is actually a factory, while the Fattoria is simply a farm.
You buy books in LIBRERIA (bookshop) while the BIBLIOTECA is the English library.
When talking about la SOCIETA’, remember that in Italian the word has a double meaning. It may be the society we live in: la società in cui viviamo, but also a business : ho una piccola società di marketing and a SOCIO is a business partner.
I PARENTI in Italians are “relatives”, while “parents” are i GENITORI.
Descriviamo le persone
When describing people, keep in mind that someone SIMPATICO means nice , not sympathetic (in It. COMPRENSIVO). Marco mi fa ridere , è molto simpatico! (He makes me laugh, he’s nice) or Ho molti problemi ma il mio capo è molto comprensivo – I’ve got some problems but my boss is very understanding/ sympathetic.
SENSIBILE means sensitive, while RAGIONEVOLE is Italian for the English sensible. A very sensible decision – una decisione molto ragionevole. A sensitive child: un bambino sensibile.
Please note that “Wear sensible shoes” translates in a totally different way: Indossare scarpe comode.
PULITO is clean while polite in Italian is EDUCATO, well-mannered. An Educated person in Italian is translated as una persona COLTA.
Do you feel confused? Well, have a go with the various expressions and stay tuned for the second group of Falsi Amici we are preparing.