Talk:False friend

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Example farm[edit]

This largely unreferenced article turned into an example farm magnet. Therefore I trimmed it severely. There are whole dictionaries of false friends. Please do not add more examples, unless they illustrate some new phenomenon with false friends. Please do not add nonnotable examples. Nearly every word of greek or latin root generated false friends. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:24, 4 March 2013 (UTC)

Good!--Bob Mudford (talk) 07:31, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Dutch neger[edit]

Neger used to be the neutral Dutch term for a black person but is cognate to the highly offensive English word nigger.

Clarify: did Dutch neger fade from use because of the English taboo, or take on the offensive connotations of nigger but remain in use, or what? —Tamfang (talk) 23:32, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

It's not really a valid example at all; regardless what the answer to the above question is, it's now offense if Dutch, too, so it's not a false friend. In former times, the English word was simply a neutral mispronunciation of "negro" by illiterate US southern whites, so back-when they weren't false friends either. The fact that the cognate words shifted from neutral to offensive at not precisely the same rate doesn't make them false friends. No cognates shift in meaning in multiple languages at precisely the same rate, even in the Internet era.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:19, 22 July 2015 (UTC)

Farm example[edit]

The American Italian fattoria lost its original meaning 'farm' in favour of 'factory' owing to the cognate English word factory (cf. Standard Italian fabbrica 'factory'). Instead of the original fattoria, the phonetic adaptation American Italian farma (Weinreich 1963: 49) became the new signifier for 'farm'—see "one-to-one correlation between signifiers and referents".

The meaning of "American Italian" is not as obvious as one might prefer. I guess it means "Italian as spoken in North America"; if so, it would be better to say that. (I assume that Italian as spoken in Latin America, which could as reasonably be called "American Italian" by analogy with "American Spanish", has not been influenced in the same way!) —Tamfang (talk) 01:32, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

corn paragraph[edit]

Corn was originally the dominant type of grain in a region (indeed corn and grain are themselves cognates from the same Indo-European root). It came to mean usually cereals in general in the British Isles in the nineteenth century, as in the Corn laws, but maize in North America, and now just maize also in the British Isles.

This whole paragraph is oddly phrased. What region is being referred to? "usually cereals in general"? That last line also goes on far too long. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:50, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

Unexplained edits[edit]

On 9 May 2015, there was an unexplained edit to the effect that "to root" is used also in British English to mean "to support".

My reversion (26 June 2015) of that change has twice been reversed by user Rsrikanth05, first with no explanation, then with an explanation "Removed British English on the basis of an assumption that an IP claims so. Please discuss".

It is difficult to see how we can approach an agreement where changes are made with no explanation (as on 9 May and in Rsrikanth05's first reversion) or where the explanation is confused (as in Rsrikanth05's second reversion, in this case to the extent that it describes the opposite of the change which he/she has made and where the rest of the description appears to make no sense). — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mike Shepherd (talkcontribs) 05:38, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Requested move 22 July 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: not moved. (non-admin closure) Calidum T|C 23:19, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

False friendFalse friends – Obligatorily plural (as a encyclopedic topic; I don't mean that one cannot say "embarazada is a false friend"). There's no such thing as a single false friend, conceptually; there must be two or more, by definition, even if only one is mentioned in a particular clause. This article is about a relationship between words (plural). See here for how routine this kind of move is.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:13, 22 July 2015 (UTC) Clarified.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:01, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

  • Oppose, the definition of "false friend" can apply to the single foreign-language word that sounds similar to the native-language word. ONR (talk) 09:12, 22 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose, 'by definition' - not. They are not false friends of each other. THey are "false friends of a translator". -M.Altenmann >t 14:57, 22 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose, often singular. In ictu oculi (talk) 03:01, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Support The page seems to indicate that two or more are needed. And look at the external links, they all go with "false friends". The category is already named "False friends".Randy Kryn 13:24, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
    "two or more" what? Please read my explanation of the meaning of the term. -M.Altenmann >t 15:04, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
    Two or more words. The words themselves are false friends to each other. From the first sentence of the article: "False friends are words in two languages (or letters in two alphabets) that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning." It sounds like the false friends in Wikipedia's definition are the words themselves, not the translator. At least in that definition. And then you have the external links all being to "False friends". Maybe there are two accurate points-of-view on this question. Randy Kryn 18:34, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Clarified: The above "opposes" have not noticed while the singular construction is semantically okay in some sentences ("embarazada is a false friend"), it is conceptually still obligatorily plural; it's impossible for a word in isolation to just be "a false friend" intrinsically, the way can it just be a noun without having to have a relationship to other nouns to be defined as one. The false-friends relationship between two or more words is the sort of thing that is a routine pluralization at RM. This WP article is about the concept of the relationship between false friends (plural) as the lead makes clear. The abstract concept of "a false friend in isolation" (a word that can be in a false-friends relationship with one or more other words, rather than the relationship per se) is not by itself an encyclopedic topic. @Old Naval Rooftops, Altenmann, and In ictu oculi: Please reconsider.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:01, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
    • disagreed. It looks like you did not read my rationale, nor the article itself. It is perfectly well possible to be a singular false friend of an interpreter, which the term actually means, and what may be easily verified from linguistic sources. Your theorizing about "relation bwtween two words" which somehow defines the "correct" usage is your personal opinion. -M.Altenmann >t 03:50, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose, though with respect. See spouse, sibling, cousin, etc... just because they always come in pairs or more doesn't mean we pluralize them. Red Slash 04:02, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There are many things that, by definition, come in multiples, but one can refer to a single one of that set, and Wikipedia convention is to prefer the singular. —Lowellian (reply) 07:31, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Origin of the term "false friend"?[edit]

Just curious, btw most other languages that I can decipher appear to use the verbatim translation for this. (talk) 12:17, 2 August 2016 (UTC) Ok.. Italian wikipedia has the explanation "In francese, l'espressione faux amis è stata creata da M. Koessler e J. Derocquigny" and google spits out [1]. (talk) 13:15, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

No mention in the article of the ordinary, non-technical sense of the term, ie. a person (or country etc.) considered an ally, who later commits a treacherous act. Doug butler (talk) 22:10, 11 August 2016 (UTC)
According to Google's Ngram Viewer, the phrase "false friend" has declined greatly in frequency of usage in the past 200 years. I wonder what's the significance of that. Since the term was apparently used in its linguistic sense only starting in the 1920s, the earlier uses must refer to an earlier meaning, maybe the simple meaning of friends who were false. Here's the Ngram Viewer chart. Omc (talk) 14:37, 26 October 2018 (UTC)
We would need an encyclopaedic article on the "non-technical sense", WP:NOTDIC.
But that set me wondering. I had always thought it was a metaphor for a two-faced person, sycophant or such like, but dictionaries do not seem to give it thus. I first understood it in the French plural (faux amis), and dictionaries seem to confirm it is a translation from the French. But French Wiktionary also only lists it in the linguistic sense, as does Collins-Robert's French/English dictionary, so seems there is no other sense for it in French, either.
Looking through Google Books for earlier than the 1920s (when the linguistic sense was coined) does make it apparent this was a well-known idiom - or idiotisme, as the French say :) - before then. But perhaps the two meanings are, etymologically, quite distinct. (talk) 06:11, 3 January 2019 (UTC)


I'm not sure this is really correct to say it is largely obsolete in English. Although there's a link to magazine (firearms), when I worked for a large defence company all of well anything that could blow you up basically was stored in a magazine, i.e. there were buildings known rather prosaically as the Eastern Magazine and the Western Magazine. They weren't the little portable magazines for carrying bullets etc in but rather large buildings with various dugouts etc in case anything exploded (fortunately it never did). That wider sense of a storehouse for ammunition, gunpowder, plastic explosives, ballistic missiles and whatnot really is more closer to the idea of a magazine as a store, and I'm surprised to read it is mostly obsolete in English. What do others think? Si Trew (talk) 08:08, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

Removed numerous examples[edit]

I removed numerous examples which do not meet the definition of false friends. All the differences in meaning of English words on either side of the Atlantic or in Australia may be surprising, puzzling, entertaining, or even embarrassing, but they are not false friends. Ditto words in Spanish like coger or pisar. These are words that have regional differences in meaning in a single language, and the number of such examples is limitless; not only from one country to another speaking a common language, but in different regions of the same country. They are not false friends, they are simply regional differences in primary (or secondary) meaning of a word.

Also, the definition of false friend is fairly particular about the words of the pair being etymologically related, and any article about false friends should elucidate how false friends and false cognates are not the same thing. Mathglot (talk) 04:13, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

I disagree. Variations within a language also give rise to false friends. If someone in Birmingham, England talks about a traffic island (roundabout, not median) or a Torontonian wants to buy a jumper (dress, not sweater), to someone who speaks a different variety of English that can be a false friend.
You are right that it is not a false friend just because it has a different meaning. I would argue that it is a false friend because it has a different meaning that falls in the same category (traffic, clothing) and so can be genuinely confusing. It is a "false friend of the interpreter", in a way that, say, a South African robot (traffic signal) is not - we others don't expect robots (humanoid machines) to control traffic signals.
But if it is not a false friend, what is it? Beyond that the point is somewhat moot, of course, as we've cut out most of the examples with Occam's razor. (talk) 06:27, 3 January 2019 (UTC)
Interesting ideas, but this isn't the place to debate theories like that. Otoh, if you can find reliable sources that support your theory, by all means add some examples that fall in that category along with a citation. I'd be surprised if you found any such sources, but I could be wrong. As far as "what is it" if not a false friend, that would be the concern of some other article, but not of this one. Cordially, Mathglot (talk) 09:06, 3 January 2019 (UTC)
I found the term "intralingual false friends"in what would seem to be RS, i.e. proceedings of a postgrad conference organised by a department of Cambridge University, and that would seem to fall within this article's ambit:
  • Roca-Varela, Mª Luisa (December 2010). "Intralingual false friends: British English and American English as a case in point" (PDF). Proceedings of the Sixth Cambridge Postgraduate Conference in Language Research. Cambridge Institute of Language Research: 132–138.
According to this book we two flavours of intralingual false friends, synchronic and dichronic (and similarly for interlingual ones):
There are plenty of examples in the first citation, which takes the term from the second. The second is also quoted here:
which is basically a tertiary source, and superfluous for intralingual false friends specifically, but has some useful references for them more generally. (talk) 17:08, 3 January 2019 (UTC)

Removal of OR and unsourced material[edit]

The article is shot through with original research and unsourced assertions. This is understandable, because everybody feels like an expert in their native language (and sometimes, others as well). However, Wikipedia's core principle of verifiability is clear on this point: All material in Wikipedia mainspace, including everything in articles, lists and captions, must be verifiable, and that Any material that needs a source but does not have one may be removed. It should be noted that adding an inline citation consisting of a dictionary definition of one or both words in a false-friends pair, verifies each of their meanings, but does not verify their status as false friends unless the source says so. To assume they are false friends from the reading of two dictionary entries where the source does not explicitly make that assertion, is WP:SYNTH and not permitted.

I plan to start removing content that is unsourced. This may mean large chunks of text, including perhaps entire, large tables of word pairs in other languages, and other unsourced or invalidly sourced material. Examples of false friend pairs should be sourced to a reference which mentions the term false friends, or something similar, or they are subject to removal. Please be sure when adding text to the article, that you include valid, reliable sources from secondary sources that substantiate the claims. Mathglot (talk) 11:30, 1 February 2018 (UTC)

Removed the tables of Spanish-English, and Japanese-English word pairs. These were linked to wiktionary definitions, but it's WP:SYNTH to presume that different meanings for, say, a Spanish and an English word pair that are spelled the same or similarly means they are False friends. It's not enough to have two references, one that defines each word of the pair: you need to find one reference, that claims that a word pair are false friends. Mathglot (talk) 07:44, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

Wrong information in article[edit]

Who said "demandar" only means "to sue"? I think it also means "to demand" in the sense of "to request", or have you never heard of the expression "video/vídeo bajo demanda" ("video on demand", commonly abbreviated as "VoD")? --Fandelasketchup (talk) 14:52, 27 March 2018 (UTC)

Agreed; be bold; remove it. Mathglot (talk) 11:07, 28 March 2018 (UTC)

Why it is different from homonymy and homoglyphy???[edit]

Is it just another synonym for homonymy? Or there's something else??

2409:4060:2083:1D68:0:0:20E1:B8AC (talk) 18:20, 27 July 2018 (UTC) 2409:4060:2083:1D68:0:0:20E1:B8AC (talk)

False friends by meaning rather than sound/appearance?[edit]

A person learning another language can come across a compound word, and translate the parts individually into their own language. However, this apparent meaning could be very different from the true meaning. For example, in Dutch bumperklever translates part-for-part as "bumper sticker", but actually means "tailgater". Is there a term for this kind of false friend, and is it covered in sources at all? Rua (mew) 17:41, 3 January 2019 (UTC)