Saturday, October 27, 2012


When learning Portuguese, you may be surprised to hear a few English words peppering conversations here and there. A handful of English words have entered Brazilian Portuguese. Most are Brazilianized forms of an English term, and are spelled according to Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation, such as "blogue" for "blog." However, there are other seemingly random English words that appear in everyday conversation that don't actually hold true to the original English meaning.

Depending on just how well you speak Portuguese and which English word it is, this could make for some major confusion. You see, there are some English terms or phrases that only halfway entered Brazilian Portuguese. These English words might be connected somehow through a word map, but then again, it could just be something that someone heard somewhere and brought back here, with a misunderstood or slightly different meaning.

Though some of these words may have started out as slang here, they are now full-fledged proper terms. As a foreigner trying to make the transition, you will need to learn the Brazilian Portuguese meaning of some originally English words.

Here are the top 5 English words that mostly made it into Brazilian Portuguese. They are pronounced the same as in English, unless otherwise noted.
  1. Shopping = We know this as a shopping mall or mall.

  2. Smoking = We know this as a tuxedo.

    I have four theories on that one. It is either derived from...
    • from the phrase "smoking hot"
    • someone heard someone else say, "You're smokin'!" and misunderstood it as, "Your Smoking[, Sir]."
    • or someone heard the phrase, "a smoking gun," and got a mental image of James Bond. Hence, um smoking turned into a tuxedo.

  3. Personal [pronounced: "pear-sown-all"] = We know this as a personal trainer or trainer.

  4. Outdoor [pronounced: "ouch-door"] = We know this as a billboard or a large panel for outdoor advertising.

  5. Face = This is what all the kids in Brazil are calling facebook, these days.

Not knowing the Brazilian Portuguese definition of these English terms can cause major confusion. Here is a conversation that took place between my husband and me when we first arrived.
Him: "I'm thinking of working with my brother in the outdoors."
Me: "Oh, really? What does he do?"
Him: "Outdoors."
Me: "...but what does he do outdoors?"
Him: (frustrated) "He works with the outdoors."
Me: (wondering where the miscommunication is) "Okay, but out... in the great outdoors... what does he do?"
Him: @#$%^&*!

...and now you know. Be sure to jot down these English words (and new meanings) inside the back cover of your English to Portuguese dictionary.

I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the Dicionário Didático (Guided Dictionary) by Edições SM. It has over 50,000 definitions that include the latest generation's slang terms, newly coined words, acronyms, and abbreviations. It truly gives you the best glimpse into modern Brazilian Portuguese.

They also have the Dicionário Didático Básico, which is a kids' edition. It has 7,000 words, more illustrations and pictures, and the definitions are explained simply & clearly. If you are just starting to learn Portuguese, it will be a great addition to your study materials.

Contact info for this book dealer is on the last page of the pdf for the Dicionário Didático & Dicionário Didático Básico. I was fortunate to find a location nearby, here in Goiânia. I only wish that I had run across these resources during the first few years! It would have made life so much easier. Then again, I'd have fewer ridiculous stories to tell...


  1. Those are interesting terms. We use "Smoking" for tuxedo in Italian as well. According to one of the main dictionaries, it derives from "Smoking jacket". However, the alternatives you give sound much more fascinating. :-)

    1. Hi, Ana! :)

      Now that is interesting!

      The smoking jacket theory was my only one until a Brazilian friend of mine told me that it just couldn't be the origin. :D I went from there...

      I haven't run across a true explanation, yet. Perhaps it is borrowed from Italians that immigrated to Brazil?

  2. Who knows which way it came from. Maybe a big encyclopaedia of Portuguese (or Italian) would have more info as to the year the word was first registered in the language and in which context.


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