February 1, 2018
False friends are those words that appear to be the same in two languages, but in fact have quite different meanings, and thus are easy to mistake but also easy to learn when you know where the trick is. One example is the Slovene word baterija, which just means battery, right?
Wrong. It also means torch in UK English, or flashlight in the US version (showing that false friends can even exist within different forms of the same language).
Slovene and English have a lot of false friends, too many for one article, and so this is just the first part of our guide to some areas of confusion and interest between these two languages.
1. Akcija looks like a call to action, but it actually means sale or special offer
2. Ambulanta doesn’t mean ambulance, although you’ll see it near hospitals. It means outpatient clinic.
3. Angina doesn’t refer to chest pain or pressure caused by a lack of blood the heart, but tonsillitis, or a sore throat.
4. Biljon in Slovene means trillion, while milijarda means billion.
5. Fantazija doesn’t mean a fantasy, but instead imagination.
6. Flipper refers to a pinball machine, while things you put on your feet to when snorkeling or diving are plavutke.
7. Folkloren almost means folklore, but not quite. Instead it’s the adjective for folk, as in folk dance, folk song and so on.
8. Fotograf should be easy, and it’s certainly easy to get wrong. It means photographer, while photograph is fotografija. On a related note, veliki plan isn’t a big plan, but a close-up shot, used along with prvi plan (foreground), drugi plan (middle ground), and tretji plan (background).
9. Hazarder looks like hazard, or danger, but in fact it means gambler. Another person with a bad habit is denoted by the fantastic narkoman. The first world I fell in love with in Slovene, this means drug addict.
10. Inštalacija is not installation, but instead wiring or plumbing (which are, to be fair, installed in a building).
Left: Flickr, David Jackmanson CC by 2.0. Right: Wikimedia
11. When looking for an apartment you may be surprised to see it offered with a kabinet, but this isn’t a wooden shelter and instead a small room, often used as a home office or study. The delightful trim kabinet refers to an exercise room or a gym, while trim steza, which you’ll see in public parks, means exercise path.
12. Klubska mizica is nothing to do with nightclubs, but instead a coffee table.
13. Kostim is almost what you think, if you think costumer, although it really means a woman’s suit (and if with pants and not a skirt, then it’s hlačni kostim).
14. A kravata is not a cravat, but a necktie.
15. A maneken(ka) refers to a live, human model, not a store dummy or dressmakers model (i.e., a mannequin).
16. Meduza means jelly fish in Slovene.
17. In a perfect storm of confusion, motorist means motorcyclist, and not someone who drives a car.
18. A novella isn’t a short novel, but an amendment to a law or conract.
19. You’ll often see program in stores, such as sladki program, otroški program, or kozmetični program, with the word meaning range or selection.
20. Propaganda is neither negative nor political in Slovene, but instead refers to any publicity material or advertising. In the same area, prospect means brochure.
21. A recept is not a receipt, but it is a piece of paper, although it means prescription (and also recipe, reminding us of the folkish origins of medicine.)
22. Semafor doesn’t refer to a system of communication using flags, i.e. semaphore, but instead to traffic lights (bonus English – English false friend, in south Africa these are called robots),
23. A stripar generally keeps their clothes on while working, as he or she is employed as a cartoonist.
24. The once seen, never forgotten tamponska država means buffer state.
25. Finally, trezor sounds like treasure, but in Slovene means a safe or a vault.
And if you speak Slovak or Polish, here's a few false friends for you: