For example, the words design in English and Dasein (being there) in German look similar, but mean something completely different.

marked as duplicate by Marthaª, Mari-Lou A, Tushar Raj, ScotM, choster Apr 30 '15 at 15:14

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    I'm not sure about similar words in different languages (could you be referring to false friends?), but a type of homonyms - words that sound the same (but are spelt differently and have different meanings) are homophones. I also think that you need a better example, since these are neither spelt nor pronounced the same, so they aren't really homonyms. Or you need to rephrase the question... Welcome to the ELU :-)! – Lucky Apr 30 '15 at 0:05
  • You might consider the word gift as a better example (German - a poison, with a capital G, English - a present). But you definitely need to edit the question to clarify what it is that you're asking (you can always edit your own posts, regardless of your current reputation) – Lucky Apr 30 '15 at 0:22
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    As Lucky said, design and Dasein are not homonyms: they're not spelled alike, and they don't sound alike. (Well, not unless you're pronouncing one of them completely wrong.) So what exactly are you trying to ask? – Marthaª Apr 30 '15 at 1:07
  • This question has been asked before, and much better too. Is there a term for a foreign word that looks like an English word but has a completely different meaning? – Mari-Lou A Apr 30 '15 at 5:15

From MacMillan Dictionary, a false cognate is

a word in a language that looks or sounds similar to a word in another language but means something different

Another example might be travel in English and travailler in French, where the former is a synonym of journey while the latter means "to work."


I'd go with false friends

From wikipedia:

False friends are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects (or letters in two alphabets) that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning.

The term is a shortened version of the expression "false friend of a translator"

The term should be distinguished from "false cognates", which are similar words in different languages that appear to have a common historical linguistic origin (whatever their current meaning) but actually do not.

False cognates don't necessary mean different things, it's just that they appear to have same the root, while in reality they don't.

From wikipedia:

As an example of false cognates, the word for "dog" in the Australian Aboriginal language Mbabaram happens to be dog, although there is no common ancestor or other connection between that language and English

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