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View Full Version : False friends in English and French : which one corrupted the original meaning ?



Maciamo
06-10-12, 14:57
English and French have over half of their vocabulary in common. Hundreds of words looking alike and sharing the same root have nevertheless completely different meanings. For example:

- The word 'location' also exists in French but means 'rental', not 'location'. Both come from the Latin locationem, a derivative from locus meaning place. English has therefore preserved the original meaning, while French attributed it a brand new one.

- In French sentence only means 'passing judgement', which is the original sense of the Latin sententia. English gave it the new meaning of 'grammatically complete statement', which has now become its first and most common usage.

- The French achever doesn't mean 'to achieve' but 'to complete'. In this case it derives from the Vulgar Latin accapare, which means neither, but is closer to the French meaning.

- Actuel in French only means 'present'. It lacks the English sense of 'true' (as in 'actually'). The root is the Latin actualis meaning "pertaining to an action".

- Affaire means 'business' or 'things' to do in French as in other Romance languages. English took it only in the narrow sense of 'love affair'.

In this thread I would like to make an extensive list of all these false friends in English and French, and specify each time which language "corrupted" the original meaning. I will update the thread whenever I think of other examples.

Feel free to contribute. :smile:

MOESAN
07-10-12, 22:21
interesting, but it 'll need time to gather the data! good luck!
it would be interesting too to separate first anglo-norman and french genuine folk's words from later loans of high level or technical words from latin
french has two kinds of "latin" words: the genuine romance ones and the loans from latin (Renaissance and after: "savant" words) -
by instance, 'location' (# 'localisation') in french is a "savant" word, the genuine romance ending in french is '-aison'/'-oison', NOT '-ation'... the romance verb is 'louer' 1 <<L. 'locare'? (# "louer" 2 << 'laudare' >> 'louange')
french is a "double latin" language

MOESAN
11-10-12, 23:15
interesting, but it 'll need time to gather the data! good luck!
it would be interesting too to separate first anglo-norman and french genuine folk's words from later loans of high level or technical words from latin
french has two kinds of "latin" words: the genuine romance ones and the loans from latin (Renaissance and after: "savant" words) -
by instance, 'location' (# 'localisation') in french is a "savant" word, the genuine romance ending in french is '-aison'/'-oison', NOT '-ation'... the romance verb is 'louer' 1 <<L. 'locare'? (# "louer" 2 << 'laudare' >> 'louange')
french is a "double latin" language

I add just
some examples of french cognate words (the left column is for the words closer to latin as a whole, the most of them words loaned after the XIII°C.) which show the meaning evolution of words from the same ancient roots, in french:

ap-précier priser°
aquarium évier
camp champ
campagne champagne
canal chenal
canon chanoine°
cap chef
capitaine cheftain*
capital cheptel
capituler chapitrer
captif chétif
case chèze* (maison)
cavalier chevalier
claudiquer clocher
col cou
comité comté
computer compter
cubitus coude
cumul comble
cutané couenné
direct droit
épiscopat évêché
fabrique forge
faribole (?) fable
fermeté ferté*
fragile frêle
frigide froid(e)
gracile grêle
hôpital hôtel
hospitalier hôtelier
impliquer employer (plier)
matrone marraine~
mature mûr(e)
méridienne mérienne
monastère moûtier*, montier*
natif naïf
naviguer nager
palace palais
parabole parole
pasteur pâtre
patron parrain~
piéton pion
posté posé
potion poison
préposé prévôt
presbytère prêtre
quadrature carrure
ration raison
rigide raide
rupture roture
sacrement serment
scandale esclandre
scintiller étinceler
sécurité sûreté
séparer sevrer
singulier sanglier
spatule épaule
suture soudure
tibia tige
tracter traiter
vagin (>> wagin) gaine

some of the more 'latinelike' words are from other romance languages (as 'capitaine', from spanish I believe)