Not all cognates look like twins, like naranja and orange

Naranjas Photo by Daniela Chavez on Unsplash

Cognates are words that have the same origin. If, in addition, these words have the same meaning, they are true cognates, but if the meanings are different then they are false cognates.

Examples of true cognates are teléfono and telephone, auditorio and auditorium, obtener and obtain.

Examples of false cognates are the typical example embarazada, pregnant, and embarassed; actualmente, currently, and actually; éxito, success, and exit; collar, necklace, and collar.

An example of true cognates that are difficult to recognize are naranja and orange. Both words come from the same origin which is the Sanskrit (India) naranga, from which it traveled to the Persian narang, and then to the Arabic naranj. From here this word took two different paths to English and Spanish.

To Spanish it came directly from Arabic, and perhaps this is the reason why the Spanish word is so similar to the original Sanskrit word.

The path it took to English was different since it came to the south of France as auranja, where it suffered an extreme makeover, after which it looked like araunge, orrange and finally orange in French and English.

The main difference between the original Sanskrit naranga (ga pronounced as in margarine) and the Spanish naranja is the Spanish pronunciation of the letter j, which is different to the j in most other languages; otherwise, the pronunciation in Spanish would have been identical to the pronunciation in Sanskrit and related languages.

Other examples of cognates that don’t look alike are atún and tuna (the fish), jarabe and syrup, azúcar and sugar, and more.


Originally published on 20070506. Latest update 20210608 ( top

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