15 Words That Mean Something Completely Different in Other Countries 

With so many languages in the world, there are going to be plenty of words that are either spelled the same or pronounced the same and mean something completely different. Just make sure not to get confused in another country as it may not work out for the best!

Smoking

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In English, this word is associated with the act of smoking. In France, however, Reader’s Digest explains it means something completely different as they say it means “Tuxedo”. It shows just how much fashion terms vary from country to country. So, not only are there smoking jackets, but also cigarette pants! 

Pay Day

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The meaning of this in English is the day a person is paid for all of their hard work, it’s a day of celebration. In Portugal, this is spelt “peidei” and translates to “I fart” It shows how pronunciations can have so many different interpretations. Just make sure to never say pay day in Portugal. 

Face

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Face in English means the front part of the head. Ladders writes that in France, the word “fesse” translates to “buttocks.” These similar sounding words both refer to completely different parts of the body. To keep the peace, don’t point to a French person’s face while saying “fesse”. 

America

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It’s commonly used to refer to the United States. The word “America” can be offensive in South America, where residents also identify as being American. It’s important to make sure that any sensitivities have been taken into consideration when referring to people from different regions. 

LOL

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In text-speech English, LOL means laugh out loud. In Dutch, it has a semi-similar meaning as it translates to fun, pranks and amusement. It just goes to show that even acronyms can have different meanings and translate to different words in other countries. 

Air

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This word has two elemental meanings. In English it refers to the oxygen that we need to breathe and in Indonesia it translates to water. While the meanings are quite similar, it might be quite confusing for both Indonesian and English people if they ask for a glass of air. 

Moron

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“Moron” is an insulting term in English. In Welsh, this word means “carrots” which is something completely different. Omniglot supports this and writes “The Welsh word “moron”, which means “carrots” is an example of a false friend.” It goes to show that while a word can be insulting in one language, it can be completely harmless in another. 

Won

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This word has three different meanings. In English, it means a person has gained something. In Polish, it refers to something that smells nice. In Russia, it refers to the complete opposite and means something does not smell good! It shows opposite meanings in close languages. 

Oficina

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This word means “office” in Spain but translates to “workshop” in Portuguese. Even though the word refers to a workspace, that workspace is completely different depending on the language. With both countries being next to each other, it shows how language can still dramatically differ.

Schlimm

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“Schlimm” means the complete opposite in Dutch and German. Learndutch supports this and says the Dutch meaning refers to intelligence, while in German it means something is bad. It can translate to dimwitted or unsuccessful. It’s another word with contrasting connotations for neighboring countries. 

Homely

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Mental Floss writes that calling someone “homely” in the US can mean “you may get a punch in the nose.” That’s because it means you’re saying someone is unattractive. In the UK, however, it’s a pleasant word that describes someone’s home as being comfortable. It shows cultural differences that come from slang words. 

Rubber

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In the UK, “rubber” often means an eraser. In the US, “rubber” is slang for a condom. This just goes to show that everyday items can have completely different meanings. If an English person asked an American for a “rubber” they’d be utterly confused. 

Pants

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The word “pants” in the US refers to a pair of trousers or outerwear. In the UK, “pants” are underwear. An English person may also express this as a word of annoyance. TutorHunt supports this by writing “This one can be embarrassing if you get it wrong.”

Tapas

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“Tapas” is commonly known as a form of Spanish cuisine. In Brazil, however, it’s something less tasty and translates to a slap. It shows how food meanings can have completely different interpretations in different countries, with tapas not being something to order in Brazil. 

Barf

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In British English, “barf” is a slang word and means to vomit. In Farsi, Urdu and Hindi “barf” means snow. While these two words are still spelled the same, they have completely different meanings depending on where you come from in the world. 

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