Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brazilian Slang - Show

Based on the title, you might be wondering what the Brazilian Portuguese slang term for "show" is... or which of the many definitions of the English word "show" I am referring to.

The closest would probably be "show" as listed in the Free Dictionary's Thesaurus by Farlex:
show - the act of publicly exhibiting or entertaining;
"a remarkable show of skill"
...which is what, exactly?


Therein lies the slang. The English word "show" made its way into Brazilian Portuguese slang via the sports arena. The term started out as "show de bola" [pronounced: "show jee boh-luh"] which meant "excellent showmanship in soccer."

The word bola means ball. It is understood that in this phrase bola is referring to soccer. Similarly, the old school American English slang term "ballin" originally meant "playing basketball [well]" (and eventually turned into "living the high life").

"Show de bola" means "a display of mad skills that takes the game to a whole new level" — the player not only has skills, but turns a play or move into an art form. To sum it up in another American English slang term: the player has game.

Like this guy:

Personally, I automatically associate a remarkable show of skill in a sport with Michael Jordan. He is, in my opinion, the most beautiful athlete ever. Watching him play was a breathtaking experience. I'm serious. I sometimes forgot to breathe when I was watching a game. He always brought it. So, if it helps, when you hear "show" or "show de bola" in Brazilian Portuguese, just think Jordan.

...who was?

Image found here.
Of course, "show de bola" is a term that originated in soccer — Brazilian soccer. When I hear "show de bola" I think of some of the most skilled players & beautiful moves that I've seen over the years. Naturally, there have been others (the most famous is Pelé) but my personal favorites in the past decade are Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho (I call him "fancy feet"), Júlio César, Neymar, Luís Fabiano, and Marcelo.

...who are all?



Like any slang worth its salt, "show de bola" was shortened to the core word: "show." "Show" now means cool, awesome, sensational, da bomb, etc. in Brazilian Portuguese.

Other Brazilian Portuguese slang synonyms for "show" are:
  • legal [pronounced: "leh-gahl"]
    This is the most commonly translated term for "cool."

  • fera [pronounced: "feh-rduh"]
    I would say this is the equivalent of "neat."

  • massa [pronounced: "mah-suh"]
    ...or in American English slang: "awesome."

  • maneiro(a) [pronounced: "mah-nay-rdoh (rduh)"]
    To my sister's chagrin, I will have to go with "rad" (though unlike "rad" it is the opposite of outdated).

  • sinistro [pronounced: "seen-ee-s-throw"]
    This is the Brazilian Portuguese twin of "wicked" (2nd Def.) or the current young American generation's version of "sick."

  • bacana [pronounced: "bah-cah-nuh"]
    The American English counterpart is "sweet."

But let's be clear on one thing: it isn't cool to say cool in Brazil. Why? Because there is a profane term that sounds just like cool, without the "l," and you might not even get that far without somebody taking offense. So cool it with the American English slang while you're here. This will ensure your trip to Brazil is all the more bacana, or as I like to say, "suh-weet."

Image found here.


  1. I love the way you teach and inform. Sure wish more of my teachers had been like you.

    You really should write a guidebook.

    1. Aw, thanks! I hope this little blog is something along the lines of the CliffsNotes i never had. :]

      You know, back when i arrived... i had to walk uphill — both ways. ;)

  2. Hmm, I think the English word "show" came into Brazilian Portuguese not via anything related to sports, but for a meaning which probably comes all the way from the '70s or '80s, or even earlier: a band's concert. It's more or less the sense you initially mentioned: a public exhibition, and I figure it probably might have been current in English by that same time (otherwise it wouldn't have been "imported" in the first place, right?). We actually use "concerto" to mean an orchestra's concert, which makes the English "concert" for e.g. pop singers sound quite weird when one first learns of it.

    The expression "show de bola" probably arose in sports TV shows, certainly meaning "a great display of skill with the soccer ball", but I believe it only got popular, to the point of becoming a major part of Brazilian slang, through overuse by variety TV host Luciano Huck, who constantly used/uses it as an interjection intended to mean "awesome!" or "cool!". I also believe just saying "show!" for short eventually evolved from it.

    Sorry for necro'ing your old post, I was googling for observations of foreigners on our home-made use of the word "show".


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