I'm an English developer working on some multilingual software, and I'm just loading in some translations for Spanish (which I believe have been translated by an actual Spanish person).

One of the terms is driving licence. This has come back as carné de conducir.

My extremely limited knowledge of Spanish leads me to believe carné refers to meat (as in, animal flesh...).

Obviously, a literal translation isn't always useful, but I'm now intrigued. What is the background of this?

  • 2
    To complement the good answer you already received, I would like to emphasize that besides having different etymology, "carne" and "carné" don't sound similar to a native speaker. Probably the same way you (likely, I guess) don't consider "desert" and "dessert" similar words. Or "ice" and "eyes", which are a nightmare for me as a non-native English speaker. – Martin Argerami Dec 12 '20 at 17:22

Carné (note the accent on the e), also spelt carnet, comes from French carnet which means "booklet" or "notebook". The Spanish word carné is also used to refer to an ID card, a membership card, or a card that gives its owner some permission or license (such as a driving license).

It has nothing to do with carne (without accent on the e) which comes from Latin and means "flesh" or "meat".

Note that the two words are pronounced differently: carné is pronounced with stress on the second syllable, while carne has the stress on the first syllable.

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    In at least some countries the standard spelling is in fact “carnet” (Venezuela). I had never seen it spelled without the “t”. – Euro Micelli Dec 12 '20 at 14:13
  • In fact the DLE does define carnet as a synonym but without any suggestion of it being a regional variation @EuroMicelli – mdewey Dec 12 '20 at 14:50
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    @EuroMicelli yes, also in Spain the spelling carnet is sometimes used. I added this option to the answer. – wimi Dec 12 '20 at 15:01

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