Word of the day – moron

The Welsh word moron, which means carrots, is an example of a false friend (cyfaill anwir?). The word for carrot is moronen, one of a small group of Welsh words that become shorter in the plural. Confusingly, the English word moron, which comes from the Greek for ‘foolish, dull’, has been borrowed into Welsh and has the same meaning.

Here are a few more Welsh/English false friends that I’ve noticed recently. Some look the same as English words, but are pronounced differently, so are only false friends in writing.

pan = when (pan is padell)
pant = hollow (to pant is dyhefod)
dim = nothing (dim is pŵl or aneglur)
mud = mute (mud is mwd)
hurt = silly (hurt is dolur (n) or dolurio (vb))
hen = old (hen is iâr)
brain = crows (brain is ymennydd)
nod = aim (nod is amnaid (n) or amneidio (vb))

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This entry was posted in Language, Welsh, Words and phrases.

12 Responses to Word of the day – moron

  1. James says:

    I have never seen a list of amigos falsos en Spanish, but there is one obvious one

    actualmente – currently (actually is “en realidad”)

    It´s hard to think of the rest as I don´t see them as the same word anymore

  2. Joe DeRose says:

    James, Thanks! I never knew that “actualmente” means “currently”; I’ve been misusing it.

    The one that always trips me up is “embarrasada,” meaning “pregnant.”

    — Joe / Atlanta / USA

  3. BG says:

    The fact that that the plural “moron” is shorter than the singular “moronen” is very interesting. I wonder how many languages have words like this. I don’t think any I am studying do.

  4. Polly says:

    James, Thanks! I never knew that “actualmente” means “currently”; I’ve been misusing it.

    I don’t know if I’ve done it, yet. But, he has certainly saved me a future “embarazo.” ;-D

  5. Daniel says:

    Some other interesting false cognates in Spanish are (sorry for not using diacritics, I’m not using my normal computer):

    argument= discusion (argumento is scheme or arrangement)
    lecture=conferencia (lectura is a selected reading)
    notice=aviso (noticia is a piece of news)
    policy= politica (policia is the police)

    realize= darse cuenta (realizar is to become real (another meaning of the english but not as common))

    effective= eficaz (efectivo is cash)

  6. Joseph Staleknight says:

    Or how about “Gift” (poison, German), when you really mean “Geschenk”?

  7. James says:

    argumento can be the “argument” of a book or essay, but if you mean in the sense of “heated exchange” then you can´t use it

    and the rest made mesmile, as I would never dream of using them in the “English” way,,, like realizar for realise! YUK

  8. Josh says:

    Some of the french ones I know are similar to the spanish:

    actuellement= currently
    réaliser= to make manifest (to realize= se rendre compte)
    un préservatif= a condom (preservative= un conservateur)
    une pipe= something um… not that appropriate (pipe= un tuyau)
    un string= a G-string (string= une ficelle)
    assister= to attend (to assist= aider)
    car= for/because [as a noun it can be a bus] (car= une voiture)
    la chance= luck (a chance= a possibility)

    There are a lot of these between English and French- I can think of more but I’m tired of writing.

  9. Josh says:

    I meant, “une possibilité”

  10. Andrew says:

    I think what you will find with Welsh is that the original word is the shorter form, which in the history of the language has shifted in its meaning to become a collective noun. In its place, a longer diminutive form has stepped in to become the singular noun. What I haven’t found out is when this happened.

  11. BG says:

    That’s interesting, thanks.

  12. There are quite a few plural words in Welsh which are shorter than the singular.

    Torth (loaf) – Tyrth
    Porth (entrance, opening) = Pyrth
    Postyn (post, as in goal post) = Pyst
    Tatws (potato) = Tit … no that’s a Welsh linguistic joke ;-)

    When the email came along, the word ‘ebost’ was coined organically. Post mutated to Bost (don’t ask me why, is post feminine or something?). The plural of post (as in mail etc) should be postau, but people decided to ironically pluralise ebost to ebyst, I believe as some kind og an ironic linguistic in-joke. However, ebyst seems to be accepted plural form of ebost now, rather than ebostau.