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To embarrass is not ‘embarazar’

As Dory, a character in the movie Finding Nemo, tries to speak “cetaceous” using English with a different pronunciation, many English speakers try to Spanish-ize words. An example? How to spell Lemonade in Spanish: Just add an accent somewhere and an ñ. Result: Lemoñadé. Or add an “a” or an “o” to the word and it becomes Spanish: “lemonada.” Right?

Any time an American asks me how to spell something in Spanish, his or her first question is: Does it have an accent? No, not every single word in Spanish has an accent and it is only used for pronuntiation purposes.

Because of the Latin roots to Spanish, there are many words in English and Spanish that can look very close but in fact, they have very different meanings. Don’t ask me why but they are used in complete different situations. Here, I will explain some of these words. If you find more, please add them to this list.

Words That Appear Similar in Spanish as in English

Excited – Excitado, excitante, excitar

In Spanish, excitar is associated with the verb arouse or something related with sexual pleasure. When excited, use instead: emocionado, emocionarse.

Embarrass – embarazar, embarazado

Although embarazar also means an awkward situation in Spanish, it is very rarely used like that. But because ‘embarazada’ is a pregnant woman, people tend to associate it with pregnancy. When embarrassed, use instead: avergonzar, vergonzoso.

Violate, violator – violar, violador

Violar is to rape and the same applies to violador. So please, say infringir instead.

Crime – crimen

Crimen is more commonly used for a homicide. Use instead: delito.

Intoxicate – intoxicar, intoxicado

While in English, it is only used for someone who loses control of his faculties due to alcohol or drug consumption, it has complete different meaning in Spanish. Intoxicar means to be poisoned with food or any toxic substance. Drunk? Use: alcoholizar or alcoholizado(a).

Condescendend – condescendiente

While condescend in English means to show superiority, in Spanish, condescendiente is used for someone who is benevolent and always accepts something to please someone else. If you mean condescend as in English, use instead: engreírse, engreído (a).

Apply, application – aplicar, aplicación

Aplicar is a verb that could be used to impose a sanction, to allow something, or to put something in practice. But it never means something like “apply for a job, a scholarship, or college”.

If you want to say apply for a job, say ‘solicitar un empleo’. And an application form should be translated as solicitud.

Premise – premisa

Premisa is the previous statement from which another is inferred as we are taught in philosophy or logic classes. But it is never used to refer a building or a business. Use instead: local, sucursal, establecimiento.

Carpet – carpeta

Carpeta is a folder and alfombra means carpet.

Can you mention any other words?


Contributed by Politex author Tania Lara (@politex)