A List of 20 False Friends in English and Italian

False friends are words in different languages that sound or look the same but have completely different meanings.

Although the vast majority of words that resemble each other in English and Italian do share a similar meaning due to their shared Latin origin, there are a number of false friends that will certainly catch you out – and probably cause you some serious embarrassment – at some point on your language learning journey!

The twenty I’ve included in this article are those that Mat and I still mix up to this day, usually when we’re sleep deprived or have had a bit too much to drink! 😉


List of False Friends in English / Italian

1. Argomento vs argument

argomento = topic, subject, theme, evidence
argument = discussione, litigio

2. Accidente vs accident

accidente = coincidence, misfortune, sickness
accident = incidente, infortunio

3. Confrontare vs confront

confrontare = to compare
to confront = affrontare

4. Conveniente vs convenient

conveniente = good value
convenient = comodo

5. Delusione vs delusion

delusione = disappointment
delusion = illusione, alluccinazione

6. Educazione vs education

educazione = good manners, upbringing
education = istruzione, insegnamento, pedagogia

Note: educazione can mean education when referring to specific subjects of study (e.g. educazione civica = civic education; educazione artistica = art education)

7. Eventualmente vs eventually

eventualmente = possibly, if need be
eventually = finalemente, prima o poi

8. Fattoria vs factory

fattoria = farm
factory = fabbrica

9. Libreria vs library

libreria = bookshop
library = biblioteca

10. Magazzino vs magazine

magazzino = warehouse
magazine = periodico, rivista

11. Marmellata vs marmalade

marmellata = jam
marmalade = marmellata di agrumi

It took ages for Mat to stop buying me jars of strawberry jam from the store instead of my beloved marmalade!

12. Morbido vs morbid

morbido = soft
morbid = morboso

13. Parenti vs parents

parenti = relatives
parents = genitori

During my first year in Italy, I asked my mother-in-law if she was happy for my parenti to visit. She responded by saying “How many of them?”

14. Pavimento vs pavement

pavimento = floor
pavement = marciapiede, strada asfaltata

15. Preservativo vs preservative

preservativo = contraceptive, condom
preservative = conservante

I once asked my Italian mother-in-law if it was necessary to add a preservativo to the stock she was preparing. The look she gave me was priceless!

16. Pretendere vs pretend

pretendere = to expect, presume, demand, insist
to pretend = fare finta, fingere

17. Ricordo vs record

ricordo = memory, recollection
record = appunto, disco, vinile

18. Romanzo vs romance

romanzo = novel
romance = storia d’amore

19. Rumore vs rumour

rumore = noise, sound
rumour = pettegolezzo, voce diffusa

20. Stampa vs stamp

stampa = press, print, printing
stamp = francobollo


Have you ever been tripped up by a false friend in Italian? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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