Spanish Cognates: An Easy Way to Learn Spanish

English-Spanish dictionary
    English-Spanish dictionary
    Used under license / Getty Images

Cognates are everyone’s best friend. From a language learning perspective, these words can help improve your vocabulary in the target language. Though cognate awareness is a beneficial strategy to language learning, you have to avoid being fooled by their sneaky nature.

When it comes to Spanish, chances are you will come across tons of cognates that will provide a built-in word base. In most cases, Spanish cognates have the same spelling or meaning as their English counterparts, which makes them effortlessly recognizable.

In terms of spelling, many Spanish cognates have the same or a very similar ending in English too: al, ante, ar, ir, ario, and ble, among others.

Cognates Ending in -Al

These words tend to have the same meaning in English. As you will see, the only difference between some Spanish words and their English counterparts is the letter C, especially for adjectives. You may also notice that several Spanish words contain the letters “NM,” whereas their English counterparts use “MM.”

  • Abdominal - Abdominal
    Example: Tengo dolor abdominal. - I have abdominal pain.
  • Accidental - Accidental
    Example: Su encuentro fue accidental. - Their meeting was accidental.
  • Adicional - Additional
    Example: Aquí hay información adicional. - Here is some additional information.
  • Asociar - Associate
    Example: No quiero que me asocien con ese movimiento. - I don’t want to be associated with that movement.
  • Celebrar - Celebrate
    Example: Vamos a celebrar tu cumpleaños. -- Let’s celebrate your birthday.
  • Crear - Create
    Example: Ellos crearon un monstruo. - They created a monster.
  • Decorar - Decorate
    Example: No quiero decorar mi oficina. - I don’t want to decorate my office.
  • Eliminar - Eliminate
    Example: Nuestros doctores buscan eliminar la causa de la epidemia. - Our doctors seek to eliminate the cause of the epidemic.
  • Evaluar - Evaluate
    Example: El profesor evaluará los ensayos.- The teacher will evaluate the essays.
  • Convencional - Conventional
    Example: Me gustan los hornos convencionales. - I like conventional ovens.
  • Digital - Digital
    Example: Esa es una imagen digital. - That is a digital image.
  • Esencial - Essential
    Example: No cumples con los requerimientos esenciales para la admisión en la universidad. - You don’t meet the essential requirements for admission to college.
  • Excepciona - Exceptional
    Example: Esta es una situación excepcional. - This is an exceptional situation.
  • Ideal - Ideal
    Example: Él es un candidato ideal para el trabajo. - He is an ideal candidate for the job.
  • Inmortal - Immortal
    Example: Desearía ser inmortal. - I wish I were immortal.
  • Imparcial - Impartial
    Example: Necesitas un análisis imparcial del caso. - You need an impartial analysis of the case.

Cognates Ending in -Ante

Many of these Spanish words are very similar to their English counterparts, except with an extra “E” attached to the end.

  • Abundante - Abundant
    Example: Necesitas un suministro de comida abundante. - You need an abundant supply of food.
  • Distante - Distant
    Example: Ella ha estado muy distante últimamente. - She has been very distant lately.
  • Elegante - Elegant
    Example: Me gusta la ropa elegante. - I like elegant clothes.
  • Importante - Important
    Example: Esta es una materia muy importante. - This is a very important subject.
  • Instante - Instant
    Example: Las cosas cambian en un instante. - Things change in an instant.

Cognates Ending in -Ar

The root words here can also be very similar to English, but do be extra mindful about spelling.

  • Abandonar - Abandon
    Example: Ellos abandonaron su casa. - They abandoned their house.
  • Adaptar - Adapt
    Example: Ella se adaptó a la vida universitaria. - She adapted herself to college life.
  • Adoptar - Adopt
    Example: Acabo de adoptar un gatito. - I’ve just adopted a kitten.
  • Comentar - Comment
    Example: Comenté en tu estado de Facebook. - I commented on your Facebook status.
  • Considerar - Consider
    Example: Me considero una persona feliz. - I consider myself a happy person.
  • Importar - Import
    Example: Importé mis contactos. - I imported my phone contacts.
  • Altar - Altar
    Example: Ella lo dejó en el altar. - She left him at the altar.
  • Familiar - Familiar
    Example: Eso me parece familiar. - That looks familiar.
  • Regular - Regular
    Example: Él es un estudiante regular. - He’s a regular student.

Cognates Ending in -Ir

The -ir ending is very uncommon in English, but it does appear in Spanish cognates.

  • Insistir - Insist
    Example: Mi mamá insistió en pagar la cuenta. - My mom insisted on paying the bill.
  • Existir - Exist
    Example: ¿Los unicornios existieron? - Did unicorns exist?
  • Invertir - Invest
    Example: Debes invertir tu tiempo sabiamente. - You should invest your time wisely.

Cognates Ending in -Ario

The -ario ending is quite common in the Spanish vocabulary.

  • Extraordinario - Extraordinary
    Example: Quisiera tener poderes extraordinarios. - I wish I had extraordinary powers.
  • Glosario - Glossary
    Example: Hay un glosario en el libro. - There is a glossary in the book.
  • Imaginario - Imaginary
    Example: ¿Alguna vez tuviste un amigo imaginario? - Did you ever have an imaginary friend?
  • Necesario - Necessary
    Example: La comida es necesaria para la vida. - Food is necessary for life.
  • Salario - Salary
    Example: Tengo un salario muy bajo. - I have a low salary.
  • Vocabulario - Vocabulary
    Example: Tú tienes un vocabulario sofisticado. - You have a sophisticated vocabulary.

Cognates Ending in -Able and -Ible

This construction in Spanish is very similar to that of English.

  • Admirable - Admirable
    Example: Ese es un logro admirable. - That is an admirable achievement.
  • Adorable - Adorable
    Example: Eres adorable. - You’re adorable.
  • Flexible - Flexible
    Example: Necesitas un horario flexible. - You need a flexible schedule.
  • Honorable - Honorable
    Example: Enseñar es una profesión honorable. - Teaching is an honorable profesión.
  • Horrible - Horrible
    Example: Tuve un día horrible. - I’ve had a horrible day.
  • Imposible - Impossible
    Example: Es imposible, ella no puede estar aquí. - That’s impossible, she can’t be here.
  • Increíble - Incredible
    Example: Tienes habilidades increíbles. - You have incredible skills.
  • Posible - Possible
    Example: Es una tarea difícil, pero posible. - It’s a difficult, but possible task.
  • Cuestionable - Questionable
    Example: Tus políticas son cuestionables. - Your policies are questionable.
  • Sociable - Sociable
    Example: Ellos son personas sociables. - They are sociable people.
  • Inestable - Unstable
    Example: Ese es un matrimonio inestable. - That’s an unstable marriage.
  • Visible - Visible
    Example: Las consecuencias son visibles. - The consequences are visible.

More Spanish Cognates

These are some the most common Spanish cognates you will come across when learning Spanish. However, there are many more you should keep an eye out for. As discussed earlier, the ending should usually tip you off, but if you aren’t sure about the meaning or the use, look the word up in a Spanish-English dictionary!