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The Power of Spanish Cognates: 130+ Spanish Words You Already Know (With PDF Download)

Even if today is your first day learning Spanish, you already know plenty of Spanish words.

Actor, animal, bar, color, control… You know them in English, but they’re in italics here because they’re all Spanish cognates!

Spanish and English have many such “twins,” and taking advantage of them will speed up your Spanish learning considerably.

Let’s look at some more words that look exactly (or almost) the same in English and Spanish.


What Are Spanish Cognates?

Cognates are words that look identical or similar in two languages and have the same meaning.

English and Spanish have borrowed many words from each other. This is helpful for English-speaking learners of Spanish (and vice versa)!

Cognates are the easiest way to expand your vocabulary. Just a quick look at the word, and you know its meaning.

But even though they look similar, there are often some differences in stress and pronunciation.

Beware of false cognates, though!

Often called “false friends,” these are words that look like cognates but aren’t. We have a full post explaining these here that you can check out after reading this one.

Most Common Spanish Cognates

Perfect Spanish Cognates

These words are spelled exactly the same way in English and Spanish. And because they’re cognates, they mean exactly the same thing too.

The only difference you may see in perfect Spanish cognates is the inclusion of an accent mark.

And remember to listen for changes in pronunciation!

Accidental Accidental
Actor Actor
Adorable Adorable
Alcohol Alcohol
Animal Animal
Bar Bar
Cable Cable
Casual Casual
Color Color
Control Control
Digital Digital
Doctor Doctor
Familiar Familiar
Flexible Flexible
Horrible Horrible
Hospital Hospital
Ideal Ideal
Memorable Memorable
Metal Metal
Muscular Muscular
Particular Particular
Popular Popular
Radio Radio
Regular Regular
Religión Religion
Rural Rural
Similar Similar
Singular Singular
Temporal Temporal
Tolerable Tolerable
Tropical Tropical
Vital Vital

Near-perfect Spanish Cognates

These near-perfect cognates have very similar spelling in both English and Spanish, though they’re not exact matches.

You can probably still guess the meaning of the word just by looking at the Spanish form!

Abundante Abundant
Accidente Accident
Adicional Additional
Arte Art
Banco Bank
Cámara Camera
Ceremonia Ceremony
Círculo Circle
Colonia Colony
Convencional Conventional
Correcto Correct
Diario Diary
Distante Distant
Esencial Essential
Enemigo Enemy
Evento Event
Excepcional Exceptional
Excusa Excuse
Experiencia Experience
Familia Family
Fruta Fruit
Funcional Functional
Grupo Group
Hereditario Hereditary
Imparcial Impartial
Importante Important
Increíble Incredible
Insecto Insect
Instante Instant
Límite Limit
Música Music
Nacional National
Nota Note
Océano Ocean
Parte Part
Planta Plant
Poema Poem
Presidente President
Problema Problem
Profesional Professional
Secreto Secret
Silencio Silence
Especial Special
Temperatura Temperature
Universidad University

Spanish Verb Cognates

The Spanish verb cognates below also have very similar spelling to their English counterparts.

Verb cognates are particularly valuable to learn because they’re so versatile. They can even become adjectives by using the past participle form (remove the -ir-er or –ar and add an -ido or -ado).

Learning Spanish verb cognates vastly expands your functional vocabulary.

Abandonar To abandon
Activar To activate
Administrar To administer
Ajustar To adjust
Admitir To admit
Adoptar To adopt
Afectar To affect
Asignar To assign
Calcular To calculate
Calmar To calm
Cancelar To cancel
Celebrar To celebrate
Clarificar To clarify
Clasificar To classify
Comentar To comment
Complementar To complement
Comunicar To communicate
Considerar To consider
Consultar To consult
Controlar To control
Cooperar To cooperate
Coordinar To coordinate
Crear To create
Dedicar To dedicate
Demostrar To demonstrate
Eliminar To eliminate
Estimar To estimate
Evaluar To evaluate
Exagerar To exaggerate
Existir To exist
Experimentar To experiment
Facilitar To facilitate
Fascinar To fascinate
Formar To form
Gratificar To gratify
Insertar To insert
Insistir To insist
Insultar To insult
Integrar To integrate
Investigar To investigate
Justificar To justify
Limitar To limit
Modificar To modify
Motivar To motivate
Necesitar To necessitate; to need
Notificar To notify
Operar To operate
Pacificar To pacify
Participar To participate
Presentar To present
Rectificar To rectify
Representar To represent
Simplificar To simplify
Soportar To support

Rules and Patterns for Spanish Cognates

Knowing the patterns cognates follow makes it much easier to take an educated guess when you’re not sure of a word!

For example, if you aren’t 100% sure how to say “professional” in Spanish during a conversation, you might say profesional because you know the Spanish cognate patterns—and in this case, you’d be correct.

Here are the most common patterns for Spanish cognates that you should commit to memory:

English EndingSpanish EndingEnglish → Spanish
-ant-anteImportant → importante
-al-alProfessional → profesional
-ar-arPopular → popular
-ary-arioOrdinary → ordinario
-ate-arActivate → activar
-ble-bleIncredible → increíble
-ct-ctoPerfect → perfecto
-ic-icoFantastic → fantástico
-id-idoRapid → rápido
-ify (verbs)-ificarSimplify → simplificar
-ile-ilFragile → frágil
-ism-ismoOrganism → organismo
-ist-istaTourist → turista
-ity-idadCuriosity → curiosidad
-ive-ivoEffective → efectivo
-ly-menteExactly → exactamente
-ment-mentoDocument → documento
-nce-nciaExperience → experiencia
-nt-nteIntelligent → inteligente
-or-orAuthor → autor
-ous-osoDelicious → delicioso
-sion-siónDecision → decisión
-tion-ciónException → excepción
-ony-onia or -onioCeremony → ceremonia, or matrimony → matrimonio
-ory-ioLaboratory → laboratorio
-um-oMuseum → museo
-us-oRadius → radio


Learning cognates can be a cool way of improving your Spanish vocabulary with little effort.

And now you’re 94 words closer to becoming a proficient speaker of Spanish!

You can also see these words in use and discover even more Spanish cognates with programs like FluentU. The interactive subtitles let you double-check the meaning of each word in every video you watch, so you don’t have to worry about “false friends.”

As always, happy studying!

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