Learn Spanish Cognates!

You can learn Spanish cognates by learning a few simple rules and applying them to your existing knowledge of English. In this way you can quickly expand your Spanish vocabulary.

What are cognates? Simply put, they are words that exist in two languages that are spelled exactly or almost exactly the same way and have the same meaning. This makes it easier to learn much of the vocabulary of another language. You simply use your knowledge of English vocabulary and apply the rules that determine the spelling change between the two languages.

Spanish is a language that evolved from Latin over the last two thousand years. English, although it is not as closely related to Latin as Spanish, borrows thousands of words from Latin, many of them the same words that Spanish uses. In addition, both languages have borrowed many words from Classical Greek. This results in thousands of cognates between English and Spanish. This helps to give us a leg up in learning Spanish vocabulary.

While some of the words with a common origin in Latin have different meanings in the two languages (these are called false cognates), the vast majority of them, 90% or more, have a similar enough meaning to be useful to us as we learn Spanish. 

The Michel Thomas series of language learning audio products uses cognates and knowledge of spelling changes as an easy way to use what you already know to get a handle on vocabulary.

Spelling. As you learn Spanish cognates, notice that many of these words also have a slightly different spelling from English, to conform to the rules of Spanish, and the pronunciation is almost always a little different.

Words that end in -a, -o, or -e very often drop or change this last vowel in English. Example - the Spanish word 'forma' simply drops the -a to become 'form' in English, but for 'positivo' we must change the -o to -e. This is easy to do when looking at the Spanish word, but the reverse is a little trickier. When looking at an English word, we don't necessarily know the gender of the Spanish cognate. When you learn the Spanish word, learn the gender with it. Knowing cognates is a quick shortcut, but it doesn't cover all the bases.

Watch out for some internal spelling changes. For instance, in Spanish double consonants like -tt, -nn and -mm are much more rare than in English, and the -rr is a different letter in Spanish - it is the highly trilled or rolled erre not the slightly trilled or tapped ere. The -cc is like in English 'accent' - the first c is hard like k and the second is soft like s. It is never like 'accumulate' where there is no soft s sound, which would be spelled with just one c.

The h sound is always silent in Spanish, and where it occurs in English words it often disappears in Spanish. There is no th in Spanish, the h is usually dropped and it is spelled and pronounced as just a t.

Words that start with st or sp in English often have a Spanish cognate with an added e in front. For example 'estado' equals English 'state'.


 

Many words in English have nearly identical Spanish cognates. Only the pronunciation is different and, at most, a very little spelling change.

antena
área
auto
cañón
chocolate
conclusión
cónsul
familiar
gala
gas
hotel
idea
melón
millón
plaza
radio
regular
religión
similar
teléfono
villa


Spanish words that end in -a, -o or -e very often have an equivalent in English. Simply drop or change the last vowel.

aire
atleta (athlete)
caso
causa
costo
creativo
credito
dieta
drama
estado
estilo (style)
favorito
figura
forma
grande (big)
guitarra
líquido
lista
mapa
medicina
minuto
mucho
nota
objetivo
parte
persona
poeta
portero
positivo
producto
práctica (practice)
puro
quieto
rápido
rosa (rose)
tubo (tube)
uso (use)
víctima
visita

 

Many Spanish words that end in -ma are irregular in that they are masculine in gender, even though they end in the usually feminine -a.

clima (climate)
diagrama
idioma (idiom,language)
problema
programa
sistema (system)
tema (theme)


There are many Spanish cognates that end in -cion. The equivalent English word ends in -tion. Note that all of these words have the stress on the final syllable. Also, all of these words are feminine in gender.

abreviación
abdicación
acción
aclamación
acumulación
administración
admiración
adoración
afirmación
aglomeración
agitación
alegación
animación
anticipación
aplicación
asimilación
asociación
atención
atracción
autenticación
autorización
automatización
aviación
celebración
cesación
circulación
civilización
clasificación
colaboración
combinación
comendación
comunicación
compensación
compilación
concentración
condenación
condensación
confirmación
confiscación
conmemoración
consideración
constelación
consternación
consultación
contaminación
contemplación
continuación
conversación
cooperación
coronación
corporación
correlación
corroboración
creación
cualificación
cuestión
declaración
degeneración
degradación
delegación
deliberación
delineación
demostración
derivación
descripción
desolación
determinación
detonación
edición
educación
elaboración
elevación
eliminación
emancipación
entonación (intonation)
ecuación
evacuación
especulación
estación
estipulación
exageración
exclamación
experimentación
exploración
exultatión
facilitación
fascinación
fermentación
formación
fórmulación
fundación
generación
germinación
gratificación
gravitación
humillación
identificación
iluminación
ilustración
imaginación
imitación
implicación
inauguración
inclinación
indentación
indicación
indignación
información
iniciación
inmigración
innovación
inundación
investigación
invitación
invocación
limitación
justificación
lamentación
legislación
manifestación
manipulación
materialización
meditación
moderación
modificación
mutilación
narración
nación
naturalización
obligación
observación
ocupación
operación
organización
orientación
ovación
participación
penetración
precipitación
premeditación
preparación
presentación
proliferación
prolongación
pronunciación
propagación
proposición
provocación
publicación
puntuación
realización
recepción
recitación
recreación
rectificación
regulación
rehabilitación
relación
renunciación
reorganización
representación
reputación
respiración
restauración
retaliación
revelación
salutación
salvación
satisfacción
segregación
sensación
separación
significación
simulación
situación
sofisticación
tentación
transfiguración
transformación
transportación
tribulación
vacación
vegetación
veneración
ventilación
verificación
violación
vocación


Words that end in -ary in English very often have a Spanish cognate that ends in -ario.

aniversario
diccionario
disciplinario
itinerario
literario
necesario
ordinario
salario
vocabulario

Words that end in -dad are quite common in Spanish. They usually correspond to an English word that ends in -ty. All of these words are feminine in gender.

autoridad (authority)
ciudad (city)
comunidad
dificultad
enfermedad (infirmity, illness)
formalidad
necesidad
prosperidad
publicidad
universidad
velocidad


English words that end in -ic usually have a Spanish cognate that simply add an -o.

Atlántico
automático
democrático
didáctico
escolástico
fanático
gimnástico
linguístico
lunático
optimístico
patriótico
romántico
sarcástico


Like the previous category, English words that end in -ical have a Spanish cognate that ends in -ico.

clásico
cómico
eléctrico
físico
histérico
metódico
periódico (newspaper,periodical)
político
práctico
sicológico (psychological)
técnico


Also notice :

magnifico
único


English words that end in -ent often have a cognate in Spanish that ends in -ente. These words are usually adjectives.

agente
cliente
diferente
equivalente
indiferente
inteligente
patente
potente
suficiente


Be careful with Spanish words that end in- mente (as opposed to just -ente). They usually have an English cognate that ends in -ly. These are adverbs.

afortunadamente (fortunately)
correctamente
desafortunadamente (unfortunately)
especialmente
exactamente
finalmente
generalmente
moralmente
naturalmente
obviamente (obviously)
rapidamente

 

Words that end in -ment in English have equivalents in Spanish that simply add an -o. These words are nouns.

argumento
monumento
sacramento
sentimiento (sentiment)
suplemento
testamento


Words that end in -al in both English and Spanish are often cognates.

animal
anual
capital
central
comercial
especial
general
hospital
intelectual
local
ocasional
oficial
original
personal
profesional
total
usual


English words that end in -ence or -ance often have a Spanish cognate that ends in -encia or -ancia.

abundancia
ausencia (absence)
circunstancia
conciencia
diferencia
distancia
experiencia
importancia
instancia
obediencia
permanencia
tolerancia


-ant (or sometimes -ent)words in English sometimes end in -ante in Spanish.

abundante
constante
elegante
estudiante
importante
restaurante
significante


Some English words that end in -ous have a Spanish cognate that ends in -oso.

ambicioso
curioso
delicioso
famoso
glorioso
gracioso
ingenioso
laborioso
numeroso
religioso


English words with the ending -y sometimes have an equivalent in Spanish with the ending -ia or -io.

aristocracia
compañía (company)
democracia
eficacia
familia
farmacia (pharmacy)
historia
misterio
remedio
secretaria
sicologia (psychology)
urgencia


English words that end in -or often have a Spanish cognate that is identical.

actor
autor (author)
color
director
doctor
humor
motor
error
profesor


English words that end in -ist often have a Spanish cognate.

artista
florista
moralista
pianista
turista
recepcionista

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