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"Frenemies" in Italian

There are numerous "false friends" (aka "false cognates") between English and the romance languages. Here's a long list for Italian/English: http://www.eserciziinglese.com/risorse-utili/falsi-amici/

I'm interested in slightly different pairs of words between English and Italian, which I'll call "frenemies". These are words which have multiple correct translations, one of which is a cognate and one of which is not, yet the cognate is often an awkward translation.

Some examples:

diverso: usually means different but can also mean diverse

arrivare: very often means to come yet also means to arrive

giusto : usually better translated as right, yet also can mean just

This sort of thing is important to know when using Duolingo, as the system will accept technically-correct translations, even if they are not the most natural.

What examples have you come across?

January 10, 2015

1 Comment


I like the terminology :-). I often come across frenemies when revising English texts drafted by native Italian speakers. I'll find an English word which isn't blatantly wrong but somehow looks a little off for the context. I then look up the most obvious Italian cognate of the English word and usually find that it is indeed a frenemy.

The most recent one I found (this morning): "rilevante" can mean either "significant" or "relevant".

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