False cognates are pairs of words that seem to be cognates because of similar sounds and meaning, but have different etymologies; they can be within the same language or from different languages. For example, the English word dog and the Mbabaram word dog have exactly the same meaning, but by complete coincidence. This is different from false friends, which are similar-sounding words with different meanings, but which may in fact be etymologically related. (For example: Spanish dependiente looks like dependent, but means sales assistant or clerk as well.)
The term "false cognate" is sometimes misused to refer to false friends, but the two phenomena are distinct. False friends occur when two words in different languages or dialects look similar, but have different meanings. While some false friends are also false cognates, many are genuine cognates (see False friends § Causes). For example, English pretend and French prétendre are false friends, but not false cognates, as they have the same origin.
- English ache and Ancient Greek ἄχος ákhos (pain, distress)
- English ask and Jaqaru aska 
- English bad vs. Persian بَد bad and Armenian ւադ vad 
- English dog and Mbabaram dog 
- English be and Gbaya be 
- English day and Portuguese "dia" or Spanish día, or Latin dies, or Italian dì, or even English diary 
- English dung and Korean 똥 ttong (excrement)
- English emoticon and Japanese 絵文字 emoji 
- English hollow and Lake Miwok hóllu 
- English much and Spanish mucho 
- English saint and Hindi or Sanskrit sant 
- English sheriff and Arabic sharif 
- English tiny and Yana tʼinii 
- French feu (fire)[note 1] and German Feuer (fire)[note 2]
- German haben and Latin habere (both "have")
- Greek root -lab- and Sanskrit root -labh- (take)
- Inuktitut kayak and Turkish kayık
- Malay mata and modern Greek μάτι máti (eye, from ommátion)
- Hungarian fiú 'son' and Romanian fiu 'son'[note 3]
- Japanese arigatō and Portuguese obrigado (thank you)
- Finnish hän (he/she) and Swedish han (he)
- Moss (1992), p. ?.
- Chamizo-Domínguez (2008), p. 166.
- Harper, Douglas. "Pretend". The Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
- Harper, Douglas. "ache". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, 3rd edition, p. 350
- Campbell, Lyle; Mixco, Mauricio J. (2007). A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Edinburgh University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978 0 7486 2378 5.
- Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition.
- Martin, Samuel E. (1966). "Lexical Evidence Relating Korean to Japanese". Language. 42 (2): 187. doi:10.2307/411687.
- Taggart, Caroline (5 November 2015). "New Words for Old: Recycling Our Language for the Modern World". Michael O'Mara Books – via Google Books.
- Schomer, Karine; McLeod, W. H. (1987). The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-208-0277-3. OCLC 879218858. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
Thus conceptually as well as etymologically, it differs considerably from the false cognate 'saint' which is often used to translate it. Like 'saint', 'sant' has also taken on the more general eithical meaning of the 'good person' whose life is a spiritual and moral exemplar, and is therefore attached to a wide variety of gurus, 'holy men', and other religious teachers.
- Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, 3rd edition, p. 355
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- LIV s. v. *sleh₂gʷ-, *lembʰ-
- de la Fuente, José Andrés Alonso (2010). "Urban legends: Turkish kayık 'boat' and "Eskimo" Qayaq 'Kayak'" (PDF). Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis. Retrieved 2015-03-06.
- Rubén Morán (2011), 'Cognate Linguistics', Kindle Edition, Amazon.
- Geoff Parkes and Alan Cornell (1992), 'NTC's Dictionary of German False Cognates', National Textbook Company, NTC Publishing Group.
- Chamizo-Domínguez, Pedro J. (2008), Semantics and Pragmatics of False Friends, New York/Oxon: Routledge
- Jakobson, Roman (1962), "Why 'mama' and 'papa'?", Selected Writings, I: Phonological Studies, The Hague: Mouton, pp. 538–545
- Moss, Gillian (1992), "Cognate recognition: Its importance in the teaching of ESP reading courses to Spanish speakers", English for Specific Purposes, 11 (2): 141&ndash, 158, doi:10.1016/s0889-4906(05)80005-5