False friends in Spanish

Spanish words to watch out for!

When on a school trip to Spain, it’s good to encourage students to speak as much Spanish as they can, even if they get some words wrong. However, it’s also good to be aware that some words in Spanish appear to mean one thing in English, but actually have a completely different meaning, so as teacher you might want to make sure you students have the following ones clear…


This looks like the Spanish word meaning embarrassed, but that’s actually “incómodo”. If someone says they’re “embarazada”, they’re pregnant, not embarrassed, so there’s no need to apologise to them.

La tuna

You might get some odd looks if you order a sandwich with “tuna”, as it actually means a prickly pear! Atún” is tuna  (easy to remember, as it looks like tuna with the A at the beginning).


Be flattered, not insulted, if someone calls you “bizarro”, because it means brave or noble. “Extraño” means bizarre.

Estar constipado

No need to be embarrassed yourself if you hear someone say, ‘Estoy constipado’ — it just means they have a cold. Someone would have to say “Estoy estreñido” to mean they were constipated.

En absoluto 

This one’s  especially confusing, as it means the precise opposite of what you might think. “En absoluto” means absolutely not, whereas “totalmente” means absolutely.

So just remember to keep your eyes open and not to assume anything.

Please don’t hesitate to consider our school group tours to Spain. Lessons in our school trips can be catered exactly to your group’s needs. Customise your own tour here.



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