16 Portuguese Words (That American Slang Could Sure Use)
Did you know Portuguese is the 6th most widely spoken language on the planet (suck it, French and all but six other languages)? That's quite a big feat, especially for a country most people can't find on a map. As a native Portuguese speaker, allow me to drop some of our most interesting, bonkers, and weirdest words that English speakers could sure use ...
The most internationally famous of Portuguese words. It's about missing someone but with an added dash of total doom. It refers to a deep sense of longing for people who're likely not to return, popularized by the wives of fishermen, sailors, and definitely not colonialists as a way to express their gloom, which also serves as an inspiration to the saddest of Portuguese songs.
"Desenrascanço" is at the foundation of Portuguese civilization. It means pulling a miraculous solution for a seemingly impossible problem, e.g., out of your ass, figuratively, of course, but literally as well, if need be. The Internet at large claims it translates to "disentangling," but it's less about tidying up your headphone wires and more about exiting the cave you wandered into for no reason and caused the collapse of.
This is the name the Portuguese give to the black bass, a type of fish the Portuguese got from Michigan to try and fight off other predators from the surprisingly widely contested rivers of Portugal. And why the hell are we talking about a fish in a list of Portuguese words Americans should know? Well, the “Achigã” quickly destroyed all presumed rivals and became the dominant freshwater species in the country – that's as American as a fish as it gets.
This one just translates directly to "sorcery" or "spell," but it has a pretty interesting story. The French were the first to co-opt and rebrand it, turning it into "fetiche," and obviously making it sexual because, duh, France, and that's how Americans got the word Fetish. No word on why you're attracted to women's feet, though.
This one translates to "otolaryngologist," a doctor specializing in nose health, or whatever. What's great about the Portuguese version is how much more needlessly complicated it is because someone decided to add the word "rino" -- also an abbreviation of "rhinoceros" for the Portuguese -- into the mix. The result could very well strike English speakers as a made-up profession set up by incompetent scammers as ways to get some money off of unsuspecting tourists. But no, it's the actual thing.
A practical word for saying "the day before yesterday." Think "yesteryesterday." English speakers should be jealous because it's pretty useful, and they don't have anything of the sort -- because they've squandered it. Yeah, did you know the English actually had the word "Ereyesterday" for that same effect, but just forgot about it until it died? Don't feel bad, though. Despite having that cool-ass word, we don't have a word for the day after tomorrow, as English speakers do -- oh, wait, they also let "Overmorrow" go to waste. Oops.
Pronunciation: Sal-uh-zar or piss-a-shit
For a long and beautiful period of mutual understanding, both Portuguese and English-speaking countries used the word "Spatula" for that thing you use to scrape the bottom of pans when your tongue can't get the job done. Then the Portuguese people fell under a dictatorship. Unlike that other dictator, the Portuguese one, Salazar, was less about genocide and more about not letting the people have the stuff they needed to survive. He was such a Scrooge Mcf**k that the Portuguese permanently renamed the kitchen appliance to “Salazar” in his “honor.”
The English have popularized the claim that there's no greater fear than that of the unknown, and the Portuguese agree. That's pretty bleak, so naturally, they've come up with ways to cope with horrifying freak incidents. A "Piripaque" is the Portuguese given name for any mysterious illness or instantly fatal one. Chances are the person reading this isn't a Portuguese speaker, so sure, it's already a silly-sounding, but the marvel here is how it's impossible to pronounce in a serious-sounding way, even if you speak Portuguese, making it perfect for laughing off situations you probably shouldn't be laughing off.
"Aventar" is the Swiss-army-knife of Portuguese words. This verb means "to predict something," "to ventilate," "to find something by its smell," and even to suffer from "intestinal pneumatosis" very fun, but, most importantly, it means to blow something away or to throw something away with all of your strength. Yeah, it's basically Portugal's very own way of saying "Yeet."
Pronunciation: Seriously? You really need to know that? Okay, here.
No, we're not just making words up because we've run out of real ones. This is the biggest word in the Portuguese dictionary, whose 46-letter count beats the mere 45 of the biggest word in English (which is about the same thing) It refers to the disease one gets from inhaling fumes out of a volcano.
Even with words such as these, both Portuguese and English-speaking countries are little-league when it comes to bonkers words.
And now for words that'll be a nightmare for English speakers specifically.
If you're a tourist coming to a Portuguese-speaking country in the hopes of smoking a big fat cigar, you'll be disappointed after uttering the word "cigar," as that will get you a puny cigarette. If you want that, you should actually ask for a "Charuto," which sounds nothing like what you want.
This rad-ass word will fool many-a-English speakers who'll instantly pin it down as the Portuguese translation of the word "Laser." It actually means "fun activities," so yeah, while it might still include lasers, don't think of it as a laser-only thing. It's a great word because it totally sounds and looks like a lazy way of pronouncing leisure, just as it should.
Pronunciation: the same
We sure hope the stereotypes about Americans aren't correct because we're about to add an extra level of geographical confusion you probably don't need in your life. If you're an English speaker, Peru is the name of a country. For Portuguese speakers, however, Peru is a country, sure, but also an animal. The animal in question is ... turkey (not the country, the animal you eat on Thanksgiving). Got it? Cool. Now let's get a conspiracy going about how all country names are just a way of saying turkey in some other language.
"Puxe," despite looking and sounding just like "Push," “Puxe” actually means, well, "Pull." What a great choice of wording for Portugal, a country whose economy runs mostly on tourism, tourism which in turn is done mostly by English speakers. Imagine how messed-up it might be finding signs on doors seemingly pranking you everywhere you go – that's real.
While "actualmente" sounds just like "actually" and is also an adverb (English speakers use the "ly" suffix to make adverbs whereas Portuguese ones use the "mente" suffix), it's a completely different thing -- actually. "Actualmente" actually means "currently" or "current times."
While it originally began its word life sharing the exact same meaning as "Excited," things quickly and inexplicably got off the rails. While that's not its official meaning in Portugal, whenever a Portuguese speaker hears an English speaker say "I'm excited about x," it's inevitably awkward because it reads less as "being hyped for something" and more about "being sexually aroused by x."
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