Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese
Português do Brasil
português brasileiro
Native speakers
205 000 000 (2011 [1])
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3
BRA orthographic.svg

Brazilian Portuguese (português do Brasil [pohtʊˈɡez dʊ bɾaˈziw] or português brasileiro [pohtʊˈɡez bɾaziˈlejɾʊ]) is a set of dialects of the Portuguese language used mostly in Brazil. It is spoken by virtually all of the 200 million inhabitants of Brazil[5] and spoken widely across the Brazilian diaspora, today consisting of about two million Brazilians who have emigrated to other countries.

Brazilian Portuguese differs significantly, particularly in phonology and prosody, from dialects spoken in Portugal and Portuguese-speaking African countries. In these latter countries, the language tends to have a closer connection to contemporary European Portuguese, partly because Portuguese colonial rule ended much more recently in them than in Brazil. Despite this difference between the spoken varieties, Brazilian and European Portuguese differ little in formal writing[6] (in many ways analogous to the differences encountered between American and British English).

In 1990, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which included representatives from all countries with Portuguese as the official language, reached an agreement on the reform of the Portuguese orthography to unify the two standards then in use by Brazil on one side and the remaining Portuguese-speaking countries on the other. This spelling reform went into effect in Brazil on 1 January 2009. In Portugal, the reform was signed into law by the President on 21 July 2008 allowing for a 6-year adaptation period, during which both orthographies co-existed. All of the CPLP countries have signed the reform. In Brazil, this reform has been in force since January 2016. Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries have since begun using the new orthography.

Regional varieties of Brazilian Portuguese, while remaining mutually intelligible, may diverge from each other in matters such as vowel pronunciation and speech intonation.[7]


Portuguese language in Brazil

The existence of Portuguese in Brazil is a legacy of the Portuguese colonization of the Americas. The first wave of Portuguese-speaking immigrants settled in Brazil in the 16th century, but the language was not widely used then. For a time Portuguese coexisted with Língua Geral[8]—a lingua franca based on Amerindian languages that was used by the Jesuit missionaries—as well as with various African languages spoken by the millions of slaves brought into the country between the 16th and 19th centuries. By the end of the 18th century, Portuguese had affirmed itself as the national language. Some of the main contributions to that swift change were the expansion of colonization to the Brazilian interior, and the growing numbers of Portuguese settlers, who brought their language and became the most important ethnic group in Brazil.

Beginning in the early 18th century, Portugal's government made efforts to expand the use of Portuguese throughout the colony, particularly because its consolidation in Brazil would help guarantee to Portugal the lands in dispute with Spain (according to various treaties signed in the 18th century, those lands would be ceded to the people who effectively occupied them). Under the administration of the Marquis of Pombal (1750–1777), Brazilians started to favour the use of Portuguese, as the Marquis expelled the Jesuit missionares (who had taught Língua Geral) and prohibited the use of Nhengatu, or Lingua Franca.[9]

The failed colonization attempts by the French in Rio de Janeiro during the 16th century and the Dutch in the Northeast during the 17th century had negligible effects on Portuguese. The substantial waves of non-Portuguese-speaking immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (mostly from Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Japan and Lebanon) were linguistically integrated into the Portuguese-speaking majority within few generations, except for some areas of the three southernmost states (Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul)—in the case of Germans, Italians and Slavs—and in rural areas of the state of São Paulo (Italians and Japanese).

Nowadays the overwhelming majority of Brazilians speak Portuguese as their mother tongue, with the exception of small, insular communities of descendants of European (German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Italian) and Japanese immigrants – mostly in the South and Southeast – as well as villages and reservations inhabited by Amerindians. And even these populations make use of Portuguese to communicate with outsiders and to understand television and radio broadcasts, for example. Moreover, there is a community of Brazilian Sign Language users whose number is estimated by Ethnologue to be as high as 3 million.[10]


The development of Portuguese in Brazil (and consequently in the rest of the areas where Portuguese is spoken) has been influenced by other languages with which it has come into contact, mainly in the lexicon: first the Amerindian languages of the original inhabitants, then the various African languages spoken by the slaves, and finally those of later European and Asian immigrants. Although the vocabulary is still predominantly Portuguese, the influence of other languages is evident in the Brazilian lexicon, which today includes, for example, hundreds of words of Tupi–Guarani origin referring to local flora and fauna; numerous West African Yoruba words related to foods, religious concepts, and musical expressions; and English terms from the fields of modern technology and commerce. Although some of these words are more predominant in Brazil, they are also used in Portugal and other countries where Portuguese is spoken.

Words derived from the Tupi language are particularly prevalent in place names (Itaquaquecetuba, Pindamonhangaba, Caruaru, Ipanema, Paraíba). The native languages also contributed the names of most of the plants and animals found in Brazil (and most of these are the official names of the animals in other Portuguese-speaking countries as well), including arara ("macaw"), jacaré ("South American caiman"), tucano ("toucan"), mandioca ("cassava"), abacaxi ("pineapple"), and many more. However, many Tupi–Guarani toponyms did not derive directly from Amerindian expressions, but were in fact coined by European settlers and Jesuit missionaries, who used the Língua Geral extensively in the first centuries of colonization. Many of the Amerindian words entered the Portuguese lexicon as early as in the 16th century, and some of them were eventually borrowed into other European languages.

African languages provided hundreds of words as well, especially in certain semantic domains, as in the following examples, which are also present in Portuguese:

  • Food: quitute, quindim, acarajé, moqueca;
  • Religious concepts: mandinga, macumba, orixá ("orisha"), axé;
  • Afro-Brazilian music: samba, lundu, maxixe, berimbau;
  • Body-related parts and conditions: banguela ("toothless"), bunda ("buttocks"), capenga ("lame"), caxumba ("mumps");
  • Geographical features: cacimba ("well"), quilombo or mocambo ("runaway slave settlement"), senzala ("slave quarters");
  • Articles of clothing: miçanga ("beads"), abadá ("capoeira or dance uniform"), tanga ("loincloth, thong");
  • Miscellaneous household concepts: cafuné ("caress on the head"), curinga ("joker card"), caçula ("youngest child", also cadete and filho mais novo), and moleque ("brat, spoiled child", or simply "child", depending on the region).

Although the African slaves had various ethnic origins, by far most of the borrowings were contributed (1) by Bantu languages (above all, Kimbundu, from Angola, and Kikongo from Angola and the area that is now the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo),[11] and (2) by Niger-Congo languages, notably Yoruba/Nagô, from what is now Nigeria, and Jeje/Ewe, from what is now Benin.

There are also many loanwords from other European languages, including English, French, German, and Italian. In addition, there is a limited set of vocabulary from Japanese.

Portuguese has borrowed a large number of words from English. In Brazil, these are especially related to the following fields (note that some of these words are used in other Portuguese-speaking countries):

  • Technology and science: app, mod, layout, briefing, designer, slideshow, mouse, forward, revolver, relay, home office, home theater, bonde ("streetcar, tram", from 1860s company bonds), chulipa (also dormente, "sleeper"), bita ("beater", railway settlement tool), breque ("brake"), picape/pick-up, hatch, roadster, SUV, air-bag, guincho ("winch"), tilburí (19th century), macadame, workshop;
  • Commerce and finance: commodities, debênture, holding, fundo hedge, angel, truste, dumping, CEO, CFO, MBA, kingsize, fast food ([ˈfɛstʃ ˈfudʒɪ]), delivery service, self service, drive-thru, telemarketing, franchise (also franquia), merchandising, combo, check-in, pet shop, sex shop, flat, loft, motel, suíte, shopping center/mall, food truck, outlet, tagline, slogan, jingle, outdoor ("billboard", [ɑwtʃiˈdɔʁ]), case (advertising), showroom;
  • Sports: surf, skating, futebol ("soccer", or the calque ludopédio), voleibol, wakeboard, gol ("goal"), goleiro, quíper, chutar, chuteira, time ("team", [ˈtʃimi]), turfe, jockey club, cockpit, box (Formula 1), pódium, pólo, boxeador, MMA, UFC, rugby, match point, nocaute ("knockout"), poker, iate club, handicap;
  • Miscellaneous cultural concepts: okay, gay, hobby, vintage, jam session, junk food, hot dog, bife or bisteca ("steak"), rosbife ("roast beef"), sundae, banana split, milkshake, (protein) shake, araruta ("arrowroot"), panqueca, cupcake, brownie, sanduíche, X-burguer, boicote ("boycott"), pet, Yankee, happy hour, lol, nerd ([ˈnɛʁdʒi], rarely [ˈnɐɻdz]), geek (sometimes [ˈʒiki], but also [ˈɡiki] and rarely [ˈɡik]), noob, punk, skinhead ([skĩˈχɛdʒi]), emo ([ˈẽmu]), indie ([ˈĩdʒi]), hooligan, cool, vibe, hype, rocker, glam, rave, clubber, cyber, hippie, yuppie, hipster, overdose, junkie, cowboy, mullet, country, rockabilly, pin-up, socialite, playboy, sex appeal, strip tease, after hours, drag queen, go-go boy, queer (as in "queer lit"), bear (also the calque urso), twink (also efebo/ephebe), leather (dad), footing (19th century), piquenique (also convescote), bro, rapper, mc, beatbox, break dance, street dance, free style, hang loose, soul, gospel, praise (commercial context, music industry), bullying ([ˈbuljĩɡɪ], but very often closer to the pronunciation [ˈbɐlĩ(ŋ)]), stalking ([ˈstɑwkĩ], very often closer to [ˈstɔwkĩ(ŋ)]), closet, flashback, check-up, ranking, bondage, dark, goth (gótica), vamp, cueca boxer or cueca slip (male underwear), black tie (or traje de gala/cerimônia noturna), smoking ("tuxedo"), quepe, blazer, jeans, cardigã, blush, make-up artist, hair stylist, gloss labial (hybrid, also brilho labial), pancake ("facial powder", also pó de arroz), playground, blecaute ("blackout"), script, sex symbol, bombshell, blockbuster, multiplex, best-seller, it-girl, fail (web context), trolling (trollar), blogueiro, photobombing, selfie, sitcom, stand-up comedy, non-sense, non-stop, gamer, camper, crooner, backing vocal, roadie, playback, overdrive, food truck, monster truck, picape/pick-up (DJ), coquetel ("cocktail"), drinque, pub, bartender, barman, lanche ("portable lunch"), underground (cultural), flop (movie/TV context and slang), DJ, VJ, haole (slang, brought from Hawaii by surfers).

Many of these words are used throughout the Lusosphere.

French has contributed to Portuguese words for foods, furniture, and luxurious fabrics, as well as for various abstract concepts. Examples include hors-concours, chic, metrô, batom, soutien, buquê, abajur, guichê, içar, chalé, cavanhaque (from Louis-Eugène Cavaignac), calibre, habitué, clichê, jargão, manchete, jaqueta, boîte de nuit or boate, cofre, rouge, frufru, chuchu, purê, petit gâteau, pot-pourri, ménage, enfant gâté, enfant terrible, garçonnière, patati-patata, parvenu, détraqué, enquête, equipe, malha, fila, burocracia, birô, affair, grife, gafe, croquette, crocante, croquis, femme fatale, noir, marchand, paletó, gabinete, grã-fino, blasé, de bom tom, bon-vivant, guindaste, guiar, flanar, bonbonnière, calembour, jeu de mots, vis-à-vis, tête-à-tête, mecha, blusa, conhaque, mélange, bric-brac, broche, pâtisserie, peignoir, négliglé, robe de chambre, déshabillé, lingerie, corset, corselet, corpete, pantufas, salopette, cachecol, cachenez, cachepot, colete, colher, prato, costume, serviette, garde-nappe, avant-première, avant-garde, debut, crepe, frappé (including slang), canapé, paetê, tutu, mignon, pince-nez, grand prix, parlamento, patim, camuflagem, blindar (from German), guilhotina, à gogo, pastel, filé, silhueta, menu, maître d'hôtel, bistrô, chef, coq au vin, rôtisserie, maiô, bustiê, collant, fuseau, cigarette, crochê, tricô, tricot ("pullover, sweater"), calção, culotte, botina, bota, galocha, scarpin (ultimately Italian), sorvete, glacê, boutique, vitrine, manequim (ultimately Dutch), machê, tailleur, echarpe, fraque, laquê, gravata, chapéu, boné, edredom, gabardine, fondue, buffet, toalete, pantalon, calça Saint-Tropez, manicure, pedicure, balayage, limusine, caminhão, guidão, cabriolê, capilé, garfo, nicho, garçonete, chenille, chiffon, chemise, chamois, plissê, balonê, frisê, chaminé, guilhochê, château, bidê, redingote, chéri(e), flambado, bufante, pierrot, torniquete, molinete, canivete, guerra (Provençal), escamotear, escroque, flamboyant, maquilagem, visagismo, topete, coiffeur, tênis, cabine, concièrge, chauffeur, hangar, garagem, haras, calandragem, cabaré, coqueluche, coquine, coquette (cocotinha), galã, bas-fond (used as slang), mascote, estampa, sabotagem, RSVP, rendez-vous, chez..., à la carte, à la ..., forró, forrobodó (from 19th-century faux-bourdon). Brazilian Portuguese tends to adopt French suffixes as in aterrissagem (Fr. atterrissage "landing [aviation]"), differently from European Portuguese (cf. Eur.Port. aterragem). Brazilian Portuguese (BP) also tends to adopt culture-bound concepts from French. That is the difference between BP estação ("station") and EP gare ("train station"—Portugal also uses estação). BP trem is from English train (ultimately from French), while EP comboio is from Fr. convoi. An evident example of the dichotomy between English and French influences can be noted in the use of the expressions know-how, used in a technical context, and savoir-faire in a social context. Portugal uses the expression hora de ponta, from French l'heure de pointe, to refer to the "rush hour", while Brazil has horário de pico, horário de pique and hora do rush. Both bilhar, from French billard, and the phonetic adaptation sinuca are used interchangeably for "snooker".

Contributions from German and Italian include terms for foods, music, the arts, and architecture.

From German, besides strudel, pretzel, bratwurst, kuchen (also bolo cuca), sauerkraut (also spelled chucrute from French choucrout and pronounced [ʃuˈkɾutʃi]), wurstsalat, sauerbraten, Oktoberfest, biergarten, zelt, Osterbaum, Bauernfest, Schützenfest, hinterland, Kindergarten, bock, fassbier and chope (from Schoppen), there are also abstract terms from German such as Prost, zum wohl, doppelgänger (also sósia), über, brinde, kitsch, ersatz, blitz ("police action"), and possibly encrenca ("difficult situation", perhaps from Ger. ein Kranker, "a sick person"). Xumbergar, brega (from marshal Friedrich Hermann Von Schönberg), and xote (musical style and dance) from schottisch. A significant number of beer brands in Brazil are named after German culture-bound concepts and place names due the fact that the brewing process was brought by German immigrants.

Italian loan words and expressions, in addition to those that are related to food or music, include tchau ("ciao"), nonna, nonnino, imbróglio, bisonho, entrevero, panetone, colomba, è vero, cicerone, male male, capisce, mezzo, va bene, ecco, ecco fatto, ecco qui, caspita, schifoso, gelateria, cavolo, incavolarsi, pivete, engambelar, andiamo via, tiramisu, tarantella, grappa, stratoria. Terms of endearment of Italian origin include amore, bambino/a, ragazzo/a, caro/a mio/a, tesoro, and bello/a; also babo, mamma, baderna (from Marietta Baderna), carcamano, torcicolo, casanova, noccia, noja, che me ne frega, io ti voglio tanto bene, and ti voglio bene assai.

Fewer words have been borrowed from Japanese. The latter borrowings are also mostly related to food and drink or culture-bound concepts, such as quimono, from Japanese kimono, karaokê, yakisoba, temakeria, sushi bar, mangá, biombo (from Portugal) (from byó bu sukurín, "folding screen"), jó ken pô or jankenpon ("rock-paper-scissors", played with the Japanese words being said before the start), saquê, sashimi, tempurá (a lexical "loan repayment" from a Portuguese loanword in Japanese), hashi, wasabi, johrei (religious philosophy), nikkei, gaijin ("non-Japanese"), issei ("Japanese immigrant")—as well as the different descending generations nisei, sansei, yonsei, gossei, rokussei and shichissei. Other Japanese loanwords include racial terms, such as ainoko ("Eurasian") and hafu (from English half); work-related, socioeconomic, historical, and ethnic terms limited to some spheres of society, including koseki ("genealogical research"), dekassegui ("dekasegi"), arubaito, kaizen, seiketsu, karoshi ("death by work excess"), burakumin, kamikaze, seppuku, harakiri, jisatsu, jigai, and ainu; martial arts terms such as karatê, aikidô, bushidô, katana, judô, jiu-jítsu, kyudô, nunchaku, and sumô; terms related to writing, such as kanji, kana, katakana, hiragana, and romaji; and terms for art concepts such as kabuki and ikebana. Other culture-bound terms from Japanese include ofurô ("Japanese bathtub"), Nihong ("target news niche and websites"), kabocha (type of pumpkin introduced in Japan by the Portuguese), reiki, and shiatsu. Some words have popular usage while others are known for a specific context in specific circles. Terms used among Nikkei descendants include oba-chan ("grandma"); onee-san, onee-chan, onii-san, and onii-chan; toasts and salutations such as kampai and banzai; and some honorific suffixes of address such as chan, kun, sama, san, and senpai.

Chinese contributed a few terms such as tai chi chuan and chá ("tea")—also in European Portuguese.

The loan vocabulary includes several calques, such as arranha-céu ("skyscraper", from French gratte-ciel) and cachorro-quente (from English hot dog) in Portuguese worldwide.

Other influences

Use of the reflexive me, especially in São Paulo and the South, is thought to be an Italianism, attributed to the large Italian immigrant population, as are certain prosodic features, including patterns of intonation and stress, also in the South and Southeast.

Some authors claim that the loss of initial es- in the forms of the verb estar (e.g. "Tá bom") —now widespread in Brazil —reflects an influence from the speech of African slaves.[dubious ][12] The same feature, however, can be found in European Portuguese and several other Romance languages. It is also claimed that some common grammatical features of Brazilian Portuguese —such as the near-complete disappearance of certain verb inflections and a marked preference for the periphrastic future (e.g. "vou falar") over the synthetic future ("falarei") —recall the grammatical simplification typical of pidgins and creoles[dubious ].

Other scholars, however—notably Naro & Scherre[13]—have noted that the same or similar processes can be observed in the European variant, as well as in many varieties of Spanish, and that the main features of Brazilian Portuguese can be traced directly from 16th-century European Portuguese.[13] In fact, they find many of the same phenomena in other Romance languages, including Aranese, French, Italian and Romanian; they explain these phenomena as due to natural Romance drift.[13] Naro and Scherre affirm that Brazilian Portuguese is not a "decreolized" form, but rather the "nativization" of a "radical Romanic" form.[13] They assert that the phenomena found in Brazilian Portuguese are inherited from Classical Latin and Old Portuguese.[13] According to another linguist,[14][15] vernacular Brazilian Portuguese is continuous with European Portuguese, while its phonetics is more conservative in several aspects, characterizing the nativization of a koiné formed by several regional European Portuguese varieties brought to Brazil, modified by natural drift.