Portuguese and Spanish are closely-related. The languages share a similar structure and many words have similar meanings. These similarities make watching out for false friends between the languages especially important. If you are using your knowledge of one language to help learn the other, make sure that you don’t confuse the following pairs of words.
Apelido and Apellido
Sometimes a single letter can make all the difference. In Spanish, apellido refers to a last name or surname. While the Portuguese appelido can mean “surname,” it usually used to indicate a nickname.
Acordar means “to wake up,” in Portuguese but “to agree” in Spanish. Confusingly, the word despertar can mean “to awake” in both languages. Adding to the confusion is the Spanish word acordarse, which means “to remember.”
When used in Spanish, contestar can mean “to answer.” Yet, this same word means “to challenge” or a “contest” in Portuguese. The Portuguese word for “to answer” is responder. The word contrariar can express the idea of challenge, counteraction, or opposition in both languages.
Embarassada and Embarazada
The Portuguese embarassada means “embarrassed,” as you might expect. The Spanish embarazada, however, means “pregnant.” Confusing these words could indeed cause an embarrassing situation. The Portugese word for pregnant is grávida, and the Spanish word for embarrassed is desconcertado.
Esposa and Esposas
The Portuguese esposa means “wife.” The Spanish esposas can mean “wives” but also translates as “handcuffs.” (The singular “handcuff” is esposar.) If you are worried about the possibility of a misunderstanding, you can introduce a female spouse using mujer, the Spanish word for “woman.”
Esquisita and Exquisita
These nearly identical words have completely different meanings. The Portuguese esquisita means “weird.” The Spanish exquisita, on the other hand, means “exquisite, excellent, delicious, delightful,” and so on.
In Spanish, oficina means “office.” In Portuguese, this word refers to a “workshop.” The Portuguese word for office is escritório.
Ruivo and Rubio
The Portuguese ruivo refers to a person who has red hair. The Spanish rubio, by contrast, means “blond.” The Portuguese and Spanish words for blond and redhead are loiro and pelirrojo, respectively.