You know how they can be: you think they're your friend, but then they betray you. Who hasn't had this experience?
If you think I'm talking about people, think again. Sure, people let you down, but words can too. I was thinking about this last night in German class, when I looked at the word "bekommen." Makes you think of "become", right? It actually means "get" or "receive." And there are plenty of other examples.
University of Exeter explains the concept well:
"The increased usage of English loan words in German may not be as much of a boon to the English speaker as it may appear. For it often exacerbates the knotty problem of 'false friends' (or more accurately 'false cognates') - treacherous words which appear to be the same in both languages but in fact mean something entirely different."
I found two sites that list German-English false cognates, and another site that lists genuine cognates.
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