False friends in Welsh

False friends or false cognates are words that sound and/or look the same in two languages but different meaning. There are many words in Welsh that have been borrowed from English, or which share a common root, but not all familiar sounding or looking words in Welsh mean the same as they do in English.

The following Welsh words look and/or sound like English words but have different meanings:

  • At = to (at = am, ar, wrth, ger, yn)
  • Bad = boat (bad = drwg)
  • Ban = beacon (to ban = gwahardd; a ban = gwaharddiad)
  • Barn = opinion (a barn = ysgubor)
  • Bore = morning (to bore (make a hole) = tyllu; to bore (tire) = blino; bore (diameter/calibre) = tyllfedd; bore (boring person) = bôr; bore (wave) = eger)
  • Brain = crows (a brain = ymenydd)
  • Call = wise (to call = galw; a call = galwad)
  • Ci = dog, but sounds like key (key = agoriad / allwedd)
  • Cuddle = hiding place (cuddle = cwtsh)
  • Dim = zero, nothing, not (dim (stupid) = twp;; dim (blunt) = pŵl; dim (unclear) = aneglur)
  • Faint = how much/many? (to faint = llewygu)
  • Hen = old (a hen = iâr)
  • Hurt = stupid (hurt = dolur, niwed)
  • Main = thin, slender (main = prif)
  • Man = place (man = dyn)
  • Moron = carrots / moron
  • Mud = mute (mud = mwd)
  • Nod = aim (to nod = amneidio; a nod = amnaid)
  • Pan = when (pan = padell)
  • Pant = hollow (to pant = dyhefod)
  • Pen = head / pen
  • Pig = beak (a pig = moch)
  • Pump = five, but sounds like pimp (a pump = pwmp)
  • Sail = base, foundation (a sail = hwyl; to sail = hwylio)
  • = house, but sounds like tea (tea = te)

There are also a number of false friends between Welsh and Mandarin Chinese, including:

  • cau = to close / closed – sounds like 開 [开] (kāi), to open / open
  • gwan = weak – sounds like 關 [关] (guān), to close / closed
  • bwgan = bogey – genie, ghost or goblin, sounds like 不敢 (bùgǎn), to dare
  • gwe = web – sounds like 鬼 (guì), ghost

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