Faux Amis Beginning With I

French English False Cognates

One of the great things about learning French or English is that many words have the same roots in the Romance languages and English. However, there are also a great many faux amis, or false cognates, which look similar but have different meanings. This is one of the biggest pitfalls for students of French. There are also "semi-false cognates": words that can only sometimes be translated by the similar word in the other language.



This alphabetical list (newest additions) includes hundreds of French-English false cognates, with explanations of what each word means and how it can be correctly translated into the other language. To avoid confusion due to the fact that some of the words are identical in the two languages, the French word is followed by (F) and the English word is followed by (E).


ici (F) vs icy (E)

     ici (F) means here.
     icy (E) means glacial, glacé, or verglacé.


idéologie (F) vs ideology (E)

     idéologie (F) can refer to an ideology, but is usually used in a pejorative sense: ideology or philosophy based on sophomoric or illogical arguments.
     ideology (E) = une idéologie.


ignorant (F) vs ignorant (E)

     ignorant (F) is a semi-false cognate. It usually means unaware of, although it can mean ignorant (E). It can also be a noun - ignoramus.
     ignorant (E) has only one French equivalent - ignorant, but in English it is usually somewhat pejorative: lacking education or knowledge.

The French word ignorant doesn't distinguish between unaware and uneducated.


ignorer (F) vs ignore (E)

     ignorer (F) is a semi-false cognate. It nearly always means to be ignorant (E) or unaware of something: j'ignore tout de cette affaire - I know nothing about this business.
     ignore (E) means to deliberately not pay attention to someone or something.

The usual translations are ne tenir aucun compte de, ne pas relever, and ne pas prêter attention à.


impair (F) vs impair (E)

     impair (F) is an adjective: odd or uneven.
     impair (E) is a verb: diminuer or affaiblir.


implantation (F) vs implantation (E)

     Une implantation (F) is the introduction or setting up of a new method or industry, a settlement, or a company's presence in country/region. Medically, it means implantation (of an organ or embryo).
     Implantation (E) means une implantation only in the sense of an introduction or setting up or in the medical sense.


important (F) vs Important (E)

     important (F) has a much broader meaning that its English cognate. In addition to important in the sense of significant or authoritative, important (F) can also mean large, considerable, substantial.
     important (E) = important.


imposition (F) vs imposition (E)

     imposition (F) refers to taxation (les impôts - taxes). In religion, l'imposition des mains = the laying on of hands.
     imposition (E) has two distinct meanings. The imposition of something, such as a regulation, is la mise en place. In the sense of a burden, imposition can't be translated by a noun. The sentence needs to be rewritten using a verb like abuser or déranger to get the sense of imposition across.




inconvénient (F) vs inconvenient (E)

     inconvénient (F) is a noun and is also somewhat stronger than the English word inconvenient; un inconvénient is a disadvantage, drawback, or risk. Les inconvénients - consequences.
     inconvenient (E) is an adjective: inopportun, importun, gênant, peu pratique, malcommode.


inconsistant (F) vs inconsistent (E)

     inconsistant (F) indicates poor consistency: flimsy, weak, colorless, runny, or watery. In a more general sense, it can be translated by inconsistent.
     inconsistent (E) means lacking consistency or being erratic: inconséquent, incompatible.


index (F) vs index (E)

     index (F) can refer to the index finger, a pointer, or an alphabetical index.
     index (E) is an alphabetical index or table. When it is used in statistics, the French equivalent is une indice.




infect (F) vs infect (E)

     infect (F) is an adjective: revolting, obnoxious, squalid, vile, horrible.
     infect (E) is a verb: infecter, contaminer.


information (F) vs information (E)

     information (F) is a semi-false cognate. Une information refers to a single piece of information, while des informations is equivalent to the general English term information. In addition, une information can indicate an official inquiry or investigation.
     information (E) means des renseignements or informations.


informatiser (F) vs inform (E)

     informatiser (F) = to computerize.
     inform (E) can mean informer, avertir, aviser, or renseigner.


ingrat (F) vs ingrate (E)

     ingrat (F) can be an adjective - ungrateful, bleak, unreliable, or unattractive - or a noun: ingrate, ungrateful person.
     ingrate (E) = un ingrat.


inhabité (F) vs inhabited (E)

     inhabité (F) = uninhabited.
     inhabited (E) means habité.


injure (F) vs injury (E)

     injure (F) is an insult or term of abuse.
     injury (E) refers to une blessure.


inscription (F) vs inscription (E)

     inscription (F) is a true cognate in the sense of text inscriptions. However, it is also a general term for action as well as registration or enrollment.
     inscription (E) = une inscription on a coin or monument, or une dédicace in a book.


insolation (F) vs insulation (E)

     insolation (F) means sunstroke or sunshine.
     insulation (E) = isolation.


instance (F) vs instance (E)

     instance (F) means authority, official proceedings, or insistence.


     instance (E) refers to something that is representative of a group, an example - un exemple.


intégral (F) vs integral (E)

     intégral (F) means complete, unabridged, or total.
     integral (E) means intégrant or constituant.


intéressant (F) vs interesting (E)

     intéressant (F) is a semi-false cognate. In addition to interesting, it can mean attractive, worthwhile, or favorable (e.g., a price or offer).
     interesting (E) means captivating, worth looking at, etc.


intoxiqué (F) vs intoxicated (E)

     intoxiqué (F) means poisoned.
     intoxicated (E) means drunk - ivre.


introduire (F) vs introduce (E)

     introduire (F) means to place, insert, or introduce into. It is not used in the sense of introducing one person to another.
     introduce (E) means présenter.


isolation (F) vs isolation (E)

     isolation (F) refers to insulation.
     isolation (E) equals isolement or quarantaine.


inviter (F) vs invite (E)

     inviter (F) means both to invite and to treat (someone to a meal/drink).
     invite (E) = inviter.