Students of Spanish learn about falsos amigos--words that appear to be English equivalents but in fact are "false friends." Embarazada, for example, doesn't mean "embarrassed"; it means "pregnant."
English has its own false friends. Here are some word pairs that frequently get confused or are incorrectly assumed to be synonomous.
- Fortuitous/Fortunate. Fortuitous means "accidental." Fortunate means "lucky." The two words have a common Latin root, fors, which means "chance," which explains the confusion. When in doubt, use a simpler synonym.
- Invoke/Evoke. Invoke means "to call upon; to appeal for help." Only human beings can invoke something; a landscape can't "invoke" memories of a happy childhood. For inanimate objects and processes we must invoke evoke, which means "call something up in someone's mind."
- Loose/Lose. Yes, I know that lose should rhyme with those and close, but it doesn't. (This is English, remember? Abandon logic, ye who enter here.) And loose should, or could, rhyme with choose. But lose--the opposite of find--rhymes with bruise (and, yes, choose) and loose--the opposite of tight--rhymes with caboose. The participle of lose is losing, as in "I'm losing my marbles over this usage lesson!" Use a mnemonic if you must: lose has lost the extra "o" in loose.
- Select/Selected. "Save 50% on select T-shirts!" I doubt it. Select--the adjective, not the verb--means refined, discriminating, or of special quality. What copywriters usually mean here is selected--chosen from among the larger group.
- Advance/Advanced. "Advanced tickets $35." As opposed to beginning or intermediate tickets? The correct word here is advance, "made or given ahead of time."
One more thing: I'm picky about artful when it's used to mean artistic--I'd rather reserve artful to mean crafty or deceitful, as in the Artful Dodger--but most usage guides accept the broader definition, so I grumpily yield. But you won't find me writing "an artfully designed room" unless said room has a trapdoor.