10 false friends you could find when learning Italian

29 Mag

Welcome back to my blog.

If you’ve never been here, I am Italian, which means that I learnt English at school. One of the most frustrating parts where the “false friends”, words that look like others in another language, but which actually mean something different.

For instance, the Italian word for “hot” is caldo, so it took me long enough to remember that “cold” means cold, because I associated it with “caldo”.

However, I was thinking that this could also happen the other way around: what if you’re learning Italian and you end up on a “false friend”.

Well, I decided then to show you 15 of those. I hope it could be helpful!


Nowadays, I know what “actually” actually means (sorry for the headache), but, in Italian, we have the adverb “attualmente”, which means currently, so I may see why you’d use it instead of the correct form “in realtà” (literally “in reality”).

Attualmente, sono in Sicilia. (Currently, I am in Sicily)

In realtà, sono in Sicilia. (Actually, I am in Sicily)


When I read terms such as “crude oil” or “crude language”, I think of the Italian word crudo, but it actually means “raw”. What you’d mean with crude is “grezzo” or “volgare”.

Il pollo è ancora crudo. (The chicken is still raw)

Il petrolio appena estratto è detto grezzo. (Freshly extracted oil is called crude)


Be careful: even though it looks like “sensible”, it actually means sensitive. The Italian equivalent for “sensible” is ragionevole.

Egli è un uomo molto sensibile. (He is a very sensitive man)

Egli è un uomo molto ragionevole. (He is a very sensible man)


As a kid, I remembered that factory doesn’t mean “fattoria” in English thanks to Old McDonald, as the first verse in Italian is Nella vecchia fattoria (in the old farm). Factory is translated in Italian as fabbrica, which itself causes another false friend with fabric!

Luigi lavora in una fattoria. (Luigi works in a farm)

Luigi lavora in una fabbrica. (Luigi works in a factory)


I love how confetti is an Italian word, but means something different in Italian. Our confetti are sugared almonds which you usually give at parties or important celebrations like a marriage. What you mean with confetti is translated in Italian with “coriandoli”.

Assaggia questi confetti. (Taste those sugared almonds)

Hanno lanciato dei coriandoli. (They threw some confetti)


Semantically speaking, libreria does involve books. However, it doesn’t mean library, but bookstore. The Italian word for library is biblioteca.

Ho comprato Harry Potter in una libreria. (I bought Harry Potter in a bookstore)

Ho letto Harry Potter in una biblioteca. (I read Harry Potter in a library)


Some magazines in Italian started using the English word, but we call them “rivista” (which literally means “seen again”). Magazzino in Italian means warehouse. In fact, one of the terms for “shopping centre” is Grandi Magazzini (Great Warehouses).

Le riviste sono nel magazzino. (Magazines are in the warehouse)

Un magazzino pieno di riviste (A warehouse full of magazines)


The Italian word for parent is “genitore”. For us, parente means “relative”, so don’t worry if someone says “un mio parente” when talking about an uncle or a cousin: he’s just saying “a relative of mine”.

Loro sono i miei genitori. (They are my parents)

Mario e Luigi sono parenti. (Mario and Luigi are relatives)


Cocomero kinda resembles “cucumber”, but it’s actually one of the words for watermelon. Funnily enough, in Naples (my city), we call it “melone d’acqua”, the literal translation for watermelon. Cucumber is translated with “cetriolo”.

Adoro mangiare il cocomero in estate. (I love to eat watermelon in the summer)

Questo sa di cetriolo. (This tastes like cucumber)


If I pretend something, it means I’m lying or faking an action. In Italian, if I “pretendo”, it means I expect something.

Pretendo che mi risponda! (I expect you to answer me!)

Fingo di essere interessato. (I pretend to be interested)

Hoping that the article has been useful for you, see you, next time, here, on the Empty Blog!



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