False friends in Greek and English

What is a False Friend in Linguistics.

Here is what Wiki says: "In linguistics, false friends are words in different languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning."

See here for some other examples. Feel free to add any you have come across.


June 15, 2019


αποκαλυπτικός = revealing

In English we have 'apocalyptic', but it refers to the kind of world-ending things which are described in the Biblical book of Revelations / Αποκάλυψις.

June 17, 2019

Thank you Phil682961.

And on a more mundane note I'll add:

Greek "τοστ" which consists of two slices of bread with cheese (and /or another filling) which has been toasted until the cheese melts.

English "toast" is simply toasted bread / φρυγανισμένο ψωμί/ φρυγανιά (If you order toast don't expect a sandwich.)

And here's where it gets interesting:
A toast is a wish we make. (usually made with wine or other drink) ευχή, πρόποση

"I'd like to make a toast to the newlyweds." «Θα ήθελα να κάνω μια πρόποση στους νεόνυμφους.»

June 18, 2019

And on that note, a τοστιέρα (the machine which makes τοστ) isn't the same as a toaster (which makes toast) :)

July 11, 2019

I was initially confused by η αντωνυμία, which means 'pronoun', not the English 'antonym'. 'Antonym' itself corresponds to αντίθετο or αντώνυμο; I am not sure if there is a difference in meaning between those two.

June 22, 2019

That's a good example too!

June 22, 2019


Σκοπός means " aim, goal, target, purpose and also in some contexts guard.

Scope means "the range of a subject covered by a book, program, discussion, class, etc.:" and "the range or extent of action, inquiry, etc., or of an activity, concept, etc."

June 29, 2019

This is true, but a scope is also an optical device attached to a bow or a gun, which is used to aim the weapon. (The viewfinder of a telescope is used in a similar way, but I have never heard it referred to as a "scope".)

Edited to add: From Wiktionary: "From Italian scopo (“purpose”), from Latin scopus (“target”)[1][2], from Ancient Greek σκοπός (skopós), from σκέπτομαι (sképtomai), from Proto-Indo-European *speḱ-. Etymologically related to skeptic and spectrum."

July 10, 2019

Interesting. Thank you.

June 16, 2019

False friends? I think the term "false cognates" is more accurate. Not to mention less ambiguous.

July 10, 2019

In fact every example so far given seems to be a genuine cognate, but a false friend. i.e. it originates with a borrowing from one language into another, and the semantics have subsequently shifted so that the meaning in the borrower language no longer maps closely to that in the donor language.

"False cognates" are pairs where words in different languages are phonetically similar or identical, but not through a borrowing or descent.

For example "emoticon" and "emoji". They refer to similar (but different things), so you might assume the "emo" has a common source.

Not so, in fact. "Emoticon" comes from 'emotion' (English via Latin, probably with French in between) and 'icon' (English via Greek). "Emoji" comes fron 'e' (picture) and 'moji' (writing), both Japanese via Chinese.

The Wikipedia article is good:

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. For example, English pretend and French prétendre are false friends, but not false cognates, as they have the same origin.

July 10, 2019
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