Here are four ‘false friends’ ie words that look similar in Italian and English but in fact have different meanings. It’s easy to get them wrong.
The English viability translates as fattibilità (from the verb fare ie something that can be done) whereas the Italian viabilità is used to describe traffic conditions, driveability.
Luxury means lusso, opulenza whereas the similar Italian word lussuria means lust, desire.
The Italian word bravo is very common. It describes a person who is good at something, capable, well-behaved. The English word brave, on the other hand, translates as coraggioso.
L’ostrica is the oyster while the similar English word ostrich means struzzo – a very different thing – don’t get them mixed up in your restaurant order!
And while we’re on restaurant order, do you always remember to pronounce the word with the double consonant when you order the pasta penne? Otherwise you’re order penises. It doesn’t matter in Australia where most waiters are Australian and wouldn’t know the difference, but it might bring a smile to Italian waiters’ faces.
Finally, two words I heard recently that don’t actually exist in Italian but are ‘invented’ by Italians living here and adapting an English word to Italian… Quite creative.
Tenca (meaning tank – in Italian it’s serbatoio/cisterna/vasca)
Suicciare (meaning to switch – in Italian it’s cambiare/scambiare).