European vs. Brazilian Portuguese:
A Small Differentiating Glossary
by Bruno Oliveira Maroneze
There are many words and expressions
which differ in meaning and usage in both sides of the Atlantic. Many of
them are popular, colloquial and obscene words (which can cause serious
misunderstandings!). But in both countries there are various regional peculiarities,
and it is not rare for a word to be used both in Brazil and in some particular
regions of Portugal (and vice-versa). So, in this small glossary, you may
find words which are used, for example, in Portugal, and also dialectally
absolutamente: EP: “absolutely”.
BP: “absolutely not”.
bizarro: EP: “smart”, “elegant”,
or “kind”. BP: “weird”, “bizarre”.
cacete: EP: a kind of bread (French
stick). BP: obscene word, meaning “penis”.
fa(c)to: a phonetic-phonological
problem. In BP, the group [ct] was reduced to [t]. So, the word which in
EP is pronounced ['faktu], in Brazil is pronounced ['fatu]. In EP, facto
means “event”, and fato means “costume”, “suit”. In BP, fato
(<= facto) means only “event”; for “costume” or “suit” the word
freguesia: EP: an administrative
division of the towns. BP: “clientele”, “customers”.
fresco and frio: two words
that refer to low temperatures. In general, frio means “cold”, and
frio is colder than fresco. But in EP, when
one asks for
água fresca, he wants “cold water”.
lousa: EP: “gravestone”. BP:
mama and peito: these
words refer to the breasts. Peito may also refer to the chest (also
for men). In BP, mama is a technical term (cáncer de mama:
breast cancer); peito is an obscene word (que peitos grandes!:
what huge tits!). In EP, mama is used in this obscene sense (que
grandes mamas!: what huge tits!)
moça and rapariga:
in BP, moça is used to refer to young ladies (aquela moça:
that young lady); in EP, the word is considered rude (because it was used
to refer to servants); instead, the words senhorita (little lady),
(girl) or rapariga may be used. Rapariga means “young lady”
in EP, but in BP, means “concubine” (in an offensive sense) or even “prostitute”.
puto: EP: “boy”. BP: “male homosexual”
(in BP, puto is considered the masculine form of puta “prostitute”);
also used to offend a man (aquele puto!: that son of a b****!);
may also mean “money” in negative emphatic sentences like não
tenho um puto!: “I don’t have any money!)
seis and meia: seis
is the common word for “six”;
meia (litterally “half”) is used only
in BP, particularly when saying phone numbers (meia comes from the
expression meia dúzia, “half dozen”).
talho: EP: “butcher’s shop”.
tamanduá and papa-formigas:
this example illustrates the utilisation of indian names in BP. These two
words refer to the mammal known in English as “ant-eater”. Tamanduá
comes from Tupi, and is used only in BP; in EP, the animal is called papa-formigas
(literally, “ant-eater”, “the one who eats ants”).
trem and comboio: in BP,
means “train”, and
comboio means “a group of transport vehicles”,
“a convoy” (um comboio de ônibus:
a group of buses). In EP, trem is not used; instead, they use comboio
© 2001 Written for Orbis
Latinus by Bruno
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