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One of the great things about learning French or English is that many words have the same roots in the Romance languages and English. However, there are also a great many faux amis, or false cognates, which look similar but have different meanings. This is one of the biggest pitfalls for students of French. There are also "semi-false cognates": words that can only sometimes be translated by the similar word in the other language.
This alphabetical list (newest additions) includes hundreds of French-English false cognates, with explanations of what each word means and how it can be correctly translated into the other language. To avoid confusion due to the fact that some of the words are identical in the two languages, the French word is followed by (F) and the English word is followed by (E).
éducation (F) vs education (E)
éducation (F) usually refers to education at home: upbringing, manners.
education (E) is a general term for formal learning = instruction, enseignement.
éligible (F) vs eligible (E)
éligible (F) means eligible only for membership or an elected office.
eligible (E) is a much more general term: éligible or admissible. To be eligible = avoir droit à, remplir/satisfaire les conditions requises pour.
émail (F) vs email (E)
émail (F) refers to enamel.
email (E) is often translated as un email, but the accepted French term is un courriel (learn more).
embarras (F) vs embarrass (E)
embarras (F) indicates trouble or confusion as well as embarrassment.
embarrass (E) is a verb: embarrasser, gêner.
embrasser (F) vs embrace (E)
embrasser (F) means to kiss, or can be used formally to mean to espouse.
embrace (E) means étreindre or enlacer.
émergence (F) vs emergency (E)
émergence (F) is the equivalent of the English words emergence or source.
emergency (E) is un cas urgent or un imprévu.
employer (F) vs employer (E)
employer (F) is a verb - to use, employ.
employer (E) is a noun - un patron, un employeur.
enchanté (F) vs enchanted (E)
enchanté (F) means enchanted or delighted, and is most commonly used upon meeting someone, the way "It's nice to meet you" is used in English.
enchanted (E) = enchanté, but the English word is much less common than the French.
enfant (F) vs Infant (E)
enfant (F) means child.
Infant (E) refers to un nouveau-né or un bébé.
engagement (F) vs Engagement (E)
engagement (F) has many meanings: commitment, promise, agreement; (finance) investing, liabilities; (negotiations) opening, start; (sports) kick-off; (contest) entry. It never means a marital engagement.
engagement (E) usually indicates one's engagement to be married: les fiançailles. It can also refer to un rendez-vous or une obligation.
engrosser (F) vs engross (E)
engrosser (F) is a familiar verb meaning to knock up, get someone pregnant.
engross (E) means absorber, captiver.
enthousiaste (F) vs enthusiast (E)
enthousiaste (F) can be a noun - enthusiast, or an adjective - enthusiastic.
enthusiast (E) is only a noun - enthousiaste.
entrée (F) vs entrée (E)
entrée (F) is another word for hors-d'oeuvre; an appetizer.
entrée (E) refers to the main course of a meal: le plat principal.
envie (F) vs envy (E)
envie (F) "Avoir envie de" means to want or to feel like something: Je n'ai pas envie de travailler - I don't want to work (feel like working). The verb envier, however, does mean to envy.
envy (E) means to be jealous or desirous of something belonging to another. The French verb is envier: I envy John's courage - J'envie le courage à Jean.
escroc (F) vs escrow (E)
escroc (F) refers to a crook or swindler.
escrow (E) means un dépôt fiduciaire or conditionnel.
étiquette (F) vs etiquette (E)
étiquette (F) is a semi-false cognate. In addition to etiquette or protocole, it can be a sticker or label.
etiquette (E) can mean étiquette, convenances, or protocole.
éventuel (F) vs eventual (E)
éventuel (F) means possible: le résultat éventuel - the possible outcome.
eventual (E) describes something that will happen at some unspecified point in the future; it can be translated by a relative clause like qui s'ensuit or qui a résulté or by an adverb like finalement.
éventuellement (F) vs eventually (E)
éventuellement (F) means possibly, if need be, or even: Vous pouvez éventuellement prendre ma voiture - You can even take my car / You can take my car if need be.
eventually (E) indicates that an action will occur at a later time; it can be translated by finalement, à la longue, or tôt ou tard : I will eventually do it - Je le ferai finalement / tôt ou tard.
évidence (F) vs evidence (E)
évidence (F) refers to obviousness, an obvious fact, or prominence.
evidence (E) means le témoignage or la preuve.
évident (F) vs evident (E)
évident (F) usually means evident or obvious, and there is a familiar expression that always catches me: ce n'est pas évident - it's not that simple.
evident (E) means évident or manifeste.
évincer (F) vs evince (E)
évincer (F) means to oust, supplant, or evict.
evince (E) = manifester or faire preuve de.
exceptionnel (F) vs exceptional (E)
exceptionnel (F) can mean either exceptional or special in the sense of out-of-the-ordinary, unexpected.
exceptional (E) means exceptionnel.
expérience (F) vs experience (E)
expérience (F) is a semi-false cognate, because it means both experience and experiment: J'ai fait une expérience - I did an experiment. J'ai eu une expérience intéressante - I had an interesting experience.
experience (E) can be a noun or verb refering to something that happened. Only the noun translates into expérience : Experience shows that… - L'expérience démontre que… He experienced some difficulties - Il a rencontré des difficultés.
expérimenter (F) vs experiment (E)
expérimenter (F) is a semi-false cognate. It is equivalent to the English verb, but also has the added sense of to test an apparatus.
experiment (E) as a verb means to test hypotheses or ways of doing things. As a noun, it is equivalent to the French word expérience (see above).
exploitation (F) vs exploitation (E)
exploitation (F) can mean either usage or exploitation.
exploitation (E) is translated by exploitation, but it always has a negative connotation in English, unlike the French which can simply refer to usage.
exposition (F) vs exposition (E)
Une exposition (F) can refer to an exposition of facts, as well as to an exhibition or show, the aspect of a building, or exposure to heat or radiation.
Exposition (E) = un commentaire, un exposé, or une interprétation.
extra (F) vs extra (E)
extra (F) is an adjective that means first-rate or terrific. Un extra is a catering assistant or a treat.
extra (E) the adjective means supplémentaire. As an adverb, it might be translated by plus, très, or even un supplément (e.g., to pay extra - payer un supplément). As a noun meaning "perk," it's equivalent to un à-côté. extras as in "extra options" are en option or gâteries, "extra fees" are frais supplémentaires. An acting extra is un figurant and extra time in sports is prolongation(s).