We’re going to finish out our look at false friends between English and the various Romance languages with some commonly-confused Brazilian Portuguese and English words. False friends are words in different languages that look similar but carry different connotations or entirely different meanings. Like the Spanish-English partial cognates we looked at in a previous lesson, some of these pairs of words do indeed share a meaning. However, they do not share every meaning, nor is the meaning they share necessarily the one you would expect them to.
Assumir and Assume: These partial cognates share the meaning of “to take on” or “to accept,” as in to assume office. However, assumir cannot be used to mean that a person jumped to a conclusion before all the facts were in. The words for that definition of the English “assume” are supor and presumir.
Atualmente and Actually: Atualmente means “at present,” not “in reality” or “in fact.” Realmente and na verdade are better translations of the English word “actually.”
Balcão and Balcony: Balcão usually means a counter. A raised outdoor platform with a railing would be a varanda or galeria.
Costume and Costume: A Portuguese costume is a “custom, habit, or tradition.” While the Portuguese traje is sometimes translated as “costume,” it literally means “dress” or “clothes.”
Data and Data: It’s easy to confuse these identically spelled false friends, but their meanings are totally different. Data in Portuguese means “date,” as in a calendar date. The word for a collection of information or statistics is dados.
Êxito and Exit: Êxito means “success.” If you need to find the way out of a building, you’ll want to look for the saída.
Fábrica and Fabric: Fábrica means a “plant” or a “factory.” In other words, it indicates a place where something is fabricated. Knitted or woven material used for making clothes is tecido or pano.
Gripe and Grip: Gripe means “the flu” or “the common cold.” The Portuguese verbs for “to complain” and “to seize or grasp” are queixar-se and agarrar, respectively
Letra and Letter: Letra refers specifically to the letters of the alphabet. In the context of a song, it would mean the lyrics of the song. If you were talking about handwriting, it would literally describe your style of penmanship. Use carta, the word for correspondence, if you’re talking about a letter that you wrote to a friend.
Novela and Novel: A novela is a soap opera. It is not a work of narrative fiction nor is it something that is unique or new. The former is called a romance. A good choice for the latter is the adjective novo, meaning “new” or “young.”
Parentes and Parents: Parentes has a broader meaning than its English false friend. It can mean any relative or member of your extended family, not just your mother and father.
Particular and Particular: These identically-spelled words have very different meanings. The Portuguese particular refers to a matter that is “personal” or “private” in nature. If you want to say that something or someone is exceptional, use the adjective especial. If you’re referring to something specific, use the adjective específico.
Pretender and Pretend: Pretender means “want” or “intend.” The Portuguese word for “to pretend” or “to feign” is fingir.