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Examples of true cognates in English (E) and German (G)


A word that is related in origin to another word, such as English brother and German Bruder.

Cognates within the same language are called doublets.

False cognates are two words in different languages that appear to be cognates but actually are not (for example, the English advertisement and the French avertissement--"warning" or "caution"). Adverb: cognately.

See also:


From the Latin, "born with"

Examples and Observations:

  • "When languages have been shown to have a common ancestor, they are said to be cognate.

    "The clearest cases are those where the parent language is known to exist. For example, on the basis of the various words for father in the Romance languages, such as père and padre, it is possible to work out how they all derived from the Latin word pater. If Latin no longer existed, it would be possible to reconstruct a great deal of its form, by comparing large numbers of words in this way."
    (David Crystal, How Language Works. Overlook Press, 2005)

  • "The verb to quote meant originally (before 1387) 'to mark (a book) with the numbers of chapters or other marginal references,' borrowed from Medieval Latin quotare 'to mark the numbers of, distinguish by numbers,' from Latin quotus 'which number,' from quot 'how many,' the source of English quota."
    (Sol Steinmetz, Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meanings. Random House, 2008)

  • Teaching Cognates
    - "Because all but the 'good' or 'true' cognates may mislead the learner, the attitude toward cognates in applied-linguistics research and foreign language teaching has often been to stress the potentially detrimental effect of cognates, to communicate the message that cognates are language elements to be mistrusted, or to ignore their existence altogether by not pointing out the systematic cognate relations that may hold between native language and the target foreign language (see Granger, 1993, for a discussion). More recently, the awareness that under many circumstances cognates, also the 'not-true' ones, may facilitate vocabulary learning has led to a much more positive attitude and even sometimes to an over-reliance on cognates.

    "To illustrate, Ringbom (1987) reasoned that the existence of cognates might be one reason why Swedes are generally better in English than Finns; English and Swedish are related languages, sharing many cognates, whereas English and Finnish are completely unrelated. The consequence is that a Finn will be at a complete loss when encountering an unknown English word, whereas in many cases a Swede may infer at least part of the English cognate's meaning. It is plausible that explicitly pointing out to the foreign language learner that the native and targeted language share many cognates affects the way the learner approaches the vocabulary acquisition task, thus accelerating learning."
    (Annette M. B. de Groot, Language and Cognition in Bilinguals and Multilinguals: An Introduction. Psychology Press, 2011)

    - "Teaching cognates, which are words that are similar in two languages, is one of the most fruitful methods of instruction for English learners who speak Spanish as their first language. Researchers indicate that English-Spanish cognates account for one-third of educated adult vocabulary (Nash, 1997) and 53.6 percent of English words are of Romance-language origin (Hammer, 1979). Cognates can provide a potent method of comprehending English vocabulary, but many Spanish-speaking students do not notice even the most transparent cognates they encounter in texts."
    (Shira Lubliner and Judith A. Scott, Nourishing Vocabulary: Balancing Words and Learning. Corwin, 2008)
Pronunciation: KOG-nate
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