Confusing words

Different genders - different meanings

der Band
die Bände
volume (book)
die Band
die Bands
(rock) band
das Band
die Bänder
ribbon, tape
Das, was er gerade gesagt hat, spricht Bände.
(What he just said speaks volumes.)
Die Band hat Live-Aufnahmen auf Tonband gemacht.
(The band made live recordings on audio tape.)

der Ekel
--
disgust, loathing, revulsion
das Ekel
--
obnoxious person
Er ist ein altes Ekel.
(He's an obnoxious old fart.)

der Elf
die Elfen
elf
die Elf
die Elfen
team, (the number) eleven

der Erbe
die Erben
heir
das Erbe
--
inheritance; legacy; heritage
Papst Johannes Paul II. hinterlässt ein schwieriges Erbe.
(Pope John Paul II leaves behind a difficult legacy.)

der Golf
die Golfe
gulf
das Golf
--
golf (game)

der Kiefer
--
jaw, jawbone
die Kiefer
die Kiefern
pine (tree, wood)

der Kunde
die Kunden
customer
die Kunde
--
the study of (noun suffix)
die Erdkunde
(geography [study of the earth])
die Heilkunde
(medecine [study of healing])
die Sternkunde
(astronomy [study of the stars])

der Leiter
die Leiter
director, leader, manager
die Leiter
die Leitern
ladder, stepladder

der Messer
die Messer
gauge
das Messer
die Messer
knife
der Druckmesser
(pressure gauge)

der Quark
--
curd cheese; nonsense
das Quark
die Quarks
quark
Getretener Quark wird breit, nicht stark. (Sprichwort)
Quality over quantity. (Proverb)

der Schild
die Schilde
shield; shell [turtle]
das Schild
die Schilder
sign

der See
die Seen
lake
die See
die Seen
sea, ocean
Heute fahren wir an den See.
Today we're driving to the lake.
Das Haus ist am See.
The house is at the lake.
Das Schiff war auf hoher See.
The ship was on the high seas.
Das Haus ist an der See.
The house is at the seaside.

die Steuer
die Steuern
tax
das Steuer
--
steering wheel;

der Stift
die Stifte
pen (felt-tip, ballpoint)
das Stift
die Stifte
foundation; seminary;

der Tau
--
dew
das Tau
die Taue
rope, cable

der Teil
die Teile
part, section
das Teil
die Teile
component, spare part

der Tor
die Toren
fool
das Tor
die Tore
gateway, goal (football)

Different genders - one meaning

Nouns that can be either neuter (das) or masculine (der) but usually have the same meaning (der is standard/most common) :

der Bonbon
das Bonbon
die Bonbons
candy
der Cartoon
das Cartoon
die Cartoons
cartoon
der Curry
das Curry
die Currys
curry
der Gummi
das Gummi
die Gummis
rubber
der Joghurt
das Joghurt
die Joghurts
yoghurt
der Keks
das Keks
die Kekse
cookie
der Liter
das Liter
die Liter
litre
der Meter
das Meter
die Meter
meter
der Virus
das Virus
--
virus

The metric unit is der (der Kilometer), but measuring devices are das (das Thermometer).

Confusing word pairs

die Achtung
attention; respect

die Ächtung
outlawing; ostracism

drücken
to push

drucken
to print

die Garage
garage (for keeping cars)

die Werkstatt
garage (for repairing cars)

kennen
to know (a person)

wissen
to know (facts, information)

legen
to put (horizontally)

stellen
to put (vertically)

lernen
to study (homework), learn

studieren to study (at university)

machen
to make (≠ 'tun')

tun
to do (≠ 'machen')

der Mandant
client (jur.)

das Mandat
seat (in parliament)

schlecht
bad (character, quality)

schlimm
bad (situation, event)

schwul
gay, homosexual

schwül
humid (weather)

wann
when (time)

wenn
when (if)

zahlen
to pay

zählen
to count

False friends

A false cognate is a word in one language that is identical or similar to a word in another language, but does not mean the same thing.

For instance, both German and English have the word fast, but the German word means almost.

Below is a glossary of the most common German-English false friends and other words that can be confusing. But don't forget that there are also many genuine cognates shared by German and English.

absolvieren = to complete a course

to absolve = lossprechen

die Achsel = armpit

axle = die Achse

der Advokat = attorney, lawyer

advocate = der Befürworter

der After = rectum

after = danach, nachher

der Akt = nude (artwork); act (theater)

act (deed) = die Tat

aktuell = current, up-to-date

actual(ly) = eigentlich, wirklich

alle Tage = every day

all day = den ganzen Tag

die Allee = boulevard, avenue

alley = die Gasse

also = thus, therefore

also = auch

die Ambulanz = outpatient department

ambulance = der Rettungswagen

apart = distinctive, unusual

apart = auseinander; abseits;

das Argument = point, reasoned argument

argument, quarrel = der Streit

die Art = kind, manner, type

art = die Kunst

der Artist = circus performer

artist = der Künstler

das Bad = bath, spa; bathroom (not toilet!)

bad = schlecht

bald = soon

bald = kahl, glatzköpfig

bang = frightened, uneasy

bang = der Knall

bekommen = to get, to receive

become = werden

die Billion = trillion

billion = die Milliarde

der Biskuit = sponge cake

biscuit = der Keks

(sich) blamieren = to embarrass oneself

blame = die Schuld

der Body Bag = bum bag

body bag = der Leichensack

der Brand = fireball, blaze

brand = die Marke

der Catcher = (professional) wrestler

catcher = der Fänger (baseball etc.)

der Chef = boss

chef = der Küchenchef

delikat = difficult, tricky; exquisite, sublte

delicate = empfindlich, fein, zart

die Direktion = management (office)

direction = die Richtung

die Dose = tin, can

dose = die Dosis

eventuell = possibly, maybe

eventually = schließlich, endlich

der Evergreen = classic song

evergreen = der Nadelbaum

die Expertise = report (by experts)

expertise = der Sachverstand

extravagant = flamboyant, stylish (tastes)

extravagant = verschwenderisch, übertrieben

die Fabrik = factory

fabric = das Gewebe, der Stoff

fade = boring, insipid, dull

to fade = verblassen

familiär = family-related; informal)

familiar (well-known) = bekannt, vertraut

die Fantasie/Phantasie = imagination

fantasy = der Tagtraum

fast = almost

fast = schnell

das Formular = form (to fill out)

formula = die Formel

der Fotograph = photographer

photograph = das Foto

die Fraktion = faction, political group

fraction = der Bruchteil

das Formular = form (to fill out)

formula = die Formel

die Garage = garage (of a house)

garage (for repairs) = die Autowerkstatt

das Gift = poison

gift, present = das Geschenk

groß = big, large, great

gross = ekelhaft

das Gymnasium = econdary school

gym = Turnhalle, Sporthalle

das Handy = mobile phone

handy = praktisch, nützlich, handlich

der Herd = stove (cooking)

herd = die Herde

die Kanne = (tea, coffee) pot, kettle

can = die Dose

die Kaution = deposit, bail, guarantee

caution = die Vorsicht

komisch = strange, odd

comic(al) = lustig

die Konfession = religious denomination

confession = das Geständnis (criminal), die Beichte (religious)

konkurrieren = to compete

concur = übereinstimmen

konsequent = consistent, logical

consequently = folglich

der Kot = feces, filth

cot = das Feldbett

die Kritik = criticism

critic = der Kritiker

das Labor = laboratory

labour = die Arbeit

der Lack = lacquer, varnish;

lack (of) = der Mangel

die List = cunning

list = die Liste

die Marmelade = jam

marmelade = die Orangenmarmelade

das Menü = daily special (restaurant)

menu = die Speisekarte

der Mist = manure, dung;

mist = der Dunst, leichter Regen

mondän = fashionable, smart

mundane = banal, weltlich

die Noten = grades, marks (school)

Notes = Notizen

das Objektiv = camera lens

objective = das Ziel

der Paragraph = section (of a law)

paragraph = der Absatz, der Abschnitt (in a text)

die Parole = slogan

parole = die Bewährung

das Pendant = counterpart

pendant = der Anhänger

die Pepperoni = hot chili peppers

pepperoni = die Salami-Pizza

das Präservativ = condom

preservative = das Konservierungmittel

die Parole = slogan

parole = die Bewährung

die Provision = commission, fee

provision = die Vorsorge

das Publikum = audience

public = die Öffentlichkeit, öffentlich

der puff = brothel

puff = der Hauch, der Windstoß,

der Qualm = smoke

qualm = das Bedenken, der Skrupel

die Quote = proportion, rating

reform house = das Besserungsanstalt

der Rat = advice, counsel

rat = die Ratte

das Reformhaus = health food store

rat = die Ratte

rentabel = profitable

rentable = mietbar

der Rat = advice, counsel

rat = die Ratte

die Rente = annuity pension

rent = die Miete

die Residenz = strictly limited to the home of nobility

residence = der Wohnsitz

das Rezept = recipe; prescription

receipt = die Quittung

der Roman = novel

Roman = der Römer

der Sekt = sparkling wine

(religious) sect = die Sekte

der Sender = (radio/TV) station

sender = der Absender

sensibel = sensitive

sensible = vernünftig

seriös = trustworthy, reliable; respectable, honest

serious = ernst, ernsthaft

der Smoking = dinner jacket, tuxedo

smoking = das Rauchen

das Stadium = stage, level

stadium = das Stadion

die Sympathie = liking; solidarity (with);

sympathy = das Mitleid

synchronisieren = to dub (a film)

synchronise = abstimmen, gleichstellen

tasten = to touch

taste = kosten, schmecken

das Transparent = banner, placard

transparent = durchsichtig
übersehen = to overlook, miss (something)

oversee = überwachen, beaufsichtigen

der Unternehmer = business person, employer

undertaker = der Leichenbestatter

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