There are some words in the German language that may seem to be familiar to a native English speaker, but in the end, it turns out that they are so-called "false friends" and have different meanings.

For example, the word "also" in English means "too" whereas the same "also" means "thus" or "so" in German. But as we know, the two languages are both related to the Germanic group. So it can be supposed that "also" in both English and German previously had identical meanings.

So the question is: when did "also" start denoting different things in these similar languages and why did it happen? And are there any other examples of English and German words meanings of which were the same long ago but now they don't coincide anymore?

  • 1
    English also and German also are only similar on the page. This is about spelling, not language. The English word is pronounced completely differently from the German one and no one could ever confuse them unless they knew how they were spelled and thought that made some difference; but it doesn't.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 15:51
  • 6
    @jlawler The question meanders and is a bit unclear, but this really has nothing to do with spelling. The fact that also happen to be spelt exactly the same in Modern English and Modern German is both incidental and coincidental – the question might just as well have been asking about Dutch alzo or Danish altså. What matters is that, as surmised in the question, they are cognates, made up of the same constituent parts, but with divergent meanings, in this case meaning one thing in English and another in all the other Germanic languages. Commented May 15, 2020 at 16:32
  • Yes, that's right.I didn't mean spelling.I'm not a native English speaker, so I'm sorry if my question sounds a bit clumsy and is a bit unclear.I did try to diliver my thought clearly:).I just wondered when the difference in meanings had appeared and why it had happened.And it's a good addition from Janus Bahs Jacquet about the rest of Germanic languages.It would be interesting to know why only English standed out in this case.
    – Maria
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 19:50
  • It's really not that far apart. The origin is all so "in this way". From this you can change meaning in the direction of "accordingly, ergo", like German did, or into "in the same way, as well", like English. (But this is only my personal thinking, so I won't write an answer.) Commented May 16, 2020 at 7:30
  • @phipsgabler, I doubt it, the first part in else explains the semantics of also "further" much better, and it just happens to be the same root, *h2el-, also seen in Lat. alius "other", whereas all is from PIE *h2el-yos with a pronomial suffix.
    – vectory
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 10:56


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