false friend

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Calque of French faux-ami, from the longer phrase faux amis du traducteur (false friends of a translator), first used by Maxime Kœssler and Jules Derocquigny in 1928 in their book Les Faux Amis ou les trahisons du vocabulaire anglais (False Friends, or the Pitfalls of the English Vocabulary).[1]




  • The Spanish embarazado (pregnant) and English embarrassed.
  • The Portuguese parentes (relatives) and English parents.
  • The Chinese 手紙手纸 (shǒuzhǐ, “toilet paper”) and Japanese 手紙 (tegami, letter), both of which are composed of the same characters.
  • The Italian triviale (vulgar) and English trivial. The two words are cognate through the Latin root trivium (crossroads).

false friend (plural false friends)

  1. (linguistics, translation studies, lexicography) A word in a language that bears a deceptive resemblance to a word in another language but in fact has a different meaning.
    Synonym: faux ami
    A word and its false friend may well be etymologically related: in such cases semantic shifts have made them drift apart.
  2. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see false,‎ friend.




  • Chinese: 假朋友 (jiǎpéngyou), 假友 (jiǎyǒu), 偽友伪友 (wěiyǒu) (calque)



See also



  1. ^ Christoph Gutknecht (2001) “Translation”, in Mark Aronoff, Janie Rees-Miller, editors, The Handbook of Linguistics, Blackwell Publishers, page 698