False friends in Russian

False friends or false cognates are words that sound and/or look the same in two languages but different meaning. There are some Russian words that have the same roots as English words and sound similar, including сестра (sestra) or sister, and география (geografia) or geography, and also many English loanwords, including такси (taksi), ресторан (restoran) and телефон (telefon). However not all familiar sounding words in Russian mean the same as they do in English.

The following Russian words sound similar to English words but have different meanings:

  • Аккуратный [akkuratnyj] = neat, punctual (accurate = правильный [pravilnuj], точный [tochnyj])
  • Артист [artist] = actor (artist = художник [khydozhnik])
  • Аудитория [auditorija] = audience (auditorium = зал [zal])
  • Бог [bog] = god (bog = болото [boloto])
  • Декорация [dekoratsija] = setting (decoration = украшение [ukrashenie], убранство [ubranstvo])
  • Интеллигентный [intelligentnyj] = cultured (intelligent = умный [umnyj], разумный [razumnyj])
  • Комплекция [komplektsija] = constitution (complexion = цвет лица [tsvet litsa])
  • Магазин [magazin] = shop (magazine = журнал [zhurnal])
  • Новелла [novella] = short story (novel = роман [roman])
  • Оператор [operator] = cameraman (operator = механик [mekhanik], машинист [mashinist]; связист [sviazist], радист [radist])
  • Проспект [prospekt] = avenue (prospect = вид [vid], перспектива [perspektiva])
  • Сок [sok] = juice (sock = носок [nosok])
  • Фабрика [fabrika] = factory (fabric = ткань [tkan])
  • Фамилия [familija] = surname (family = семья [semia])

To help remember these false friends, you could make associations between their meanings and the words they resemble. For example, you could imagine yourself drinking juice through a сок [sok].

Comments on False friends in Russian