Learning Portuguese? Be aware of some words that may trick you!

The first time I went to Museu da Língua Portuguesa (the Museum of the Portuguese Language) in São Paulo I fell in love – with the Portuguese language, its sounds, shapes, how it has been influenced by different times and peoples and become the language spoken in Brazil today. I have already written about the differences in European and Brazilian Portuguese but I’ve decided to write about this topic one more time as I came across some words this week that have different meanings in both countries and are quite interesting.

Putos and raparigas:
These words are tricky. While in Portugal they are innocent terms, in Brazil they are swear words. Puto means child or boy in Portugal but in Brazil it is generally used as an adjective meaning profligate, irritated or angry. In Portugal a girl or young woman is called a rapariga, whereas in Brazil this word is offensive and means whore or slut.

Garoto and média:
Garoto means in Brazil what puto means in Portugal – boy. In Lusitanian lands, garoto is also the popular name for coffee with milk. In Brazil, the popular name for this drink is média (meaning average) or pingado (meaning dripped).

Fatos and factos:
An event or occurrence is a facto (fact) in Portugal and a fato in Brazil. It turns out that fato (no “c”) in Portugal means suit or clothing in general. It’s worth knowing the spelling of this word has not changed with the last spelling reform.

In Portugal the word apelido is used with the meaning of surname or family name. In Brazil it means nickname. José ‘s nickname is Zé, Francisco’s is Chico, Maria’s is Lia. People’s nicknames are usually made of one or more syllables of their names: Luciana becomes Luana, Lúcia – Lu, Leonardo- Leo, Camila- Mila and Mariana- Mari and so on.

Assobio and apito:
While in Brazil assobio (whistle) is the sound produced by those that can whistle, in Portugal it also means apito, the whistle.

Do you have any other suggestions of words that have different meanings in Brazil and Portugal?


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3 thoughts on “Learning Portuguese? Be aware of some words that may trick you!”

  1. In Brazil, “bicha” means “homosexual” or “gay”. In Portugal, “bicha” means a “line” formed in a bank for instance.

  2. Thank you for mentioning Museu da Língua Portuguesa! It’s truly a breathtaking place for visitors, I recommend it often to tourists. 🙂


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