Learn Italian Cognates—More Italian/English Best Friends!

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Anyone who has studied Italian for even a short time has probably noticed how similar to English many Italian words are. This is because both languages have words with origins that date back to the Latin language spoken by the Romans. These words are called cognates—words that have a common origin and a similar meaning.

English/Italian cognates can be the best friend of one who is trying to learn either language. But beware! Not all words that sound alike have the same meaning in both languages.  There is a pattern, though, and if you can recognize the different groups of cognates, your vocabulary will greatly increase with very little effort.

For words that are similar in Italian and English, the stem of the word will provide a clue to the actual meaning, and the ending will also follow a common pattern.

See how this works below with an excerpt reprinted from the grammar section of our Conversational Italian for Travelers  textbook, courtesy of publisher Stella Lucente, LLC.

For an easy-to read reference book on grammar, the same section is found in the easy-to-read reference book Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar.

 

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Grammar Note: Cognates

Adjectives Ending in -ale, -ico, -etto, -atto

 

 

Here are more examples of cognates—words that have a common origin and a similar meaning in Italian and English. Recognizing these words should greatly increase one’s vocabulary with very little effort!

 

The ending –ale in Italian is equivalent to the ending –al in English. 

originale = original
personale = personal
speciale = special
tradizionale = traditional

 

 

The ending –ico in Italian is equivalent to the ending –ical in English.

classico = classical
fisiologico  = physiological
politico  = political
tecnico = technical
tipico = typical
turistico = touristy

 

The ending –etto in Italian is equivalent to the ending –ect in English. 

corretto = correct
dialetto = dialect
diretto = direct
perfetto = perfect

 

The ending –atto in Italian is equivalent to the ending –act in English.

contatto  = contact (to touch)
   = to know someone (in a business)
contratto = contract
fatto = fact
tratto = tract of land/pamphlet
tratto digestivo = digestive tract

 

 


If you can think of another cognate to add to these lists, please join our Conversational Italian! Facebook group and leave a post, or leave a message below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar

Available on Amazon.com and www.Learn Travel Italian.com

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2 thoughts on “Learn Italian Cognates—More Italian/English Best Friends!

  1. We had an addition to the list from Facebook: reale = real, for real, true, actual. But, notice that reale can also mean royal, as in kingly, or magnificent. So, of course, we have to watch for “false friends” as well!

    Like

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