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Rare False Friends

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You might assume that the Welsh word plant means the same thing it does in English, but this word is a linguistic false friend. The Welsh word plentyn means “child,” and the word plant means “children.” Some false friends are etymologically unrelated, such as the Italian word burro, “butter,” and the Spanish word burro, “donkey.” Others have a common root, but took divergent paths in different languages. The Latin word fastidium, for example, means “loathing” or “disgust,” and gave rise to Spanish fastidioso, which means “annoying” or “tedious,” but also English fastidious, which has the somewhat more positive meaning of “meticulous.” Gift in German means “poison,” but in Norwegian the same word means “married.” This is part of a complete episode.

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