False friends (27): elegible; eligible

Oh, no! False Friends

Theses look-alikes are truly false friends. In Spanish elegible means que se puede elegir, o tiene capacidad legal para ser elegido (DLE). In English this translates as “electable,” “capable of being elected” or, to use its false cognate, “eligible for election.”

In contrast, in English “eligible” is broader in meaning, referring to “having the right to do or obtain something; satisfying the appropriate conditions” (OED), being a synonym of “being entitled to” or “suitable for.” Thus in Spanish “eligible” may be expressed as con derecho (a); que cumple los requisitos; que reúne las condiciones; autorizado/a, etc., but not as elegible.

2 thoughts on “False friends (27): elegible; eligible

  1. Thank you for posting this. That said would it be appropriate to interpret the phrase “is eligible for probation” as “califica para la libertad condicional”? In other words to use “califica” as the equivalent for “eligible”. I look forward to your response. Thank you again for posting this.


    • Hi Alina,
      I don’t think “califica para” is standard Spanish, but rather it appears to be a literal translation of the English “be eligible for” or “qualify for”. “Reúne las condiciones” or “cumple los requisitos” would be good options. Also, in Spain and in other Spanish-speaking jurisdictions “libertad condicional” is “parole”, not “probation.” How you translate “probation” will depend on the audience country. But for info, in the Spanish Criminal Code it’s called “suspensión de la ejecución de la pena”, and is also sometimes referred to as “condena condicional (de la pena/condena)” or “remisión condicional (de la pena/condena).”


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