35 Brazilian Words That Won’t Make You Look Like a Gringo
If you plan to visit Brazil, the first thing you should know (besides the fact that you will fall in love with the accent) is that only 5% of the Brazilian population speaks English. The other 95% will try as hard as they can to understand your hand gestures, and this is because they genuinely are one of the warmest people you will meet. But why not come slightly prepared and retribute their kindness and hospitality by learning the most common expressions before you travel?
This list of 35 survival phrases and words used in conversational Brazilian Portuguese will ensure that locals will smile back at you in every interaction.
Let’s start with the ABC. What are the essential words you should know when you order a corn on the cob or coconut water from a beach vendor? When you introduce yourself to a group of Brazilians and want to nail your etiquette? Or even for a small chit-chat with the taxi driver? Here’s a must-learn list of basic words in Brazilian Portuguese:
01. Oi: Hello
02. Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite: Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening
03. Tudo bem?: How are you?
Example: Bom dia, tudo bem? — Good morning, how are you?
04. Me chamo…: My name is...
05. Prazer: Nice to meet you
06. Venho do(a)...: I’m from…
Example: Me chamo Anne e venho da França. Prazer! — My name is Anne and I come from France. Nice to meet you!
07. Tenho … anos: I’m … years old
08. Sim: Yes
09. Não: No
10. Tá bom: Ok
11. Por favor: Please
12. Obrigado (for male) or Obrigada (for female): Thank you
13. Tchau: Bye
Example: “Com licença, você quer beber alguma coisa? — Excuse me, would you like to drink something?
Sim, por favor. // Não, obrigado(a). — Yes, please // No, thank you.
De nada, tchau. — You’re welcome, bye.”
Exploring the country
Whether you’re out and about and don’t want to get (literally) lost in translation, or whether you come across a tempting restaurant and need to warn of your food restrictions, it’s important to have some more sentences under your belt. Take a look at the following key expressions that will help you in all circumstances:
14. Falar inglês: To speak English
Example: Você fala inglês? — Do you speak English?
15. Não entendo: I don’t understand
Example: Não entendo, pode repetir por favor? — I don’t understand, can you please repeat?
16. Banheiro: Toilet
Example: Onde fica o banheiro? — Where is the bathroom?
17. Que horas abre/fecha?: What time does it open/close?
18. Cerveja or chopp: Beer
Example: Quero uma cerveja por favor. — I would like to have a beer please.
19. Quanto custa?: How much does it cost?
20. A conta: The bill
Example: Quero a conta por favor. — Can I please have the bill?
21. Alergia: Allergy
Example: Tenho alergia a... — I’m allergic to…
Winning a Brasileiro’s or Brasileira’s heart
Remember that smile you were looking for in every Brazilian face after interacting with them? Now that you know these survival expressions, you’re guaranteed one. But truth be said, you’ll only become fluent in Brazilian Portuguese if those social encounters go a little deeper. At the end of the day, if you meet a girl or a guy who sparks your attention, you’ll need some more material to go past the first 5 minutes of conversation. Just go the extra mile and master the following expressions (and don’t worry, in case things won’t go as planned, some of these will still save you):
22. Maneiro(a) or Bacana: Nice
Example: Ela é uma menina maneira. — She’s a nice girl.
23. Nossa Senhora!: Oh my goodness!
24. Gato (for male) or Gata (for female): Pretty
Example: Nossa Senhora! Ele é o maior gato. — Oh my goodness! He’s so pretty.
25. Saudades: To miss someone
Example: Vou ter saudades de você. — I will miss you
26. Cara de pau: Idiot
Example: Ele é um cara-de-pau e só pensa nele. — He’s an idiot and only thinks about himself.
27. Beijo: Kiss
Example: Posso te dar um beijo? — Can I kiss you?
28. Foi mal: Sorry (very informal)
Example: Foi mal, não vai rolar nada entre nós dois. — Sorry, nothing will happen between the two of us.
Diving into Brazilian slang
Your experience wouldn’t be totally authentic if you’d only stick to the essentials. Brazilians are usually very informal people and that is why slang is an important part of their vocabulary. So, if you want to see how Brazilian culture actually comes together, learn some of the most used local slang words and phrases:
29. Cara: Guy or Dude
Example: Ok cara, não se preocupa. — Alright dude, don’t worry.
30. Beleza: Yes or Deal
31. Joia: Great
Example: Tudo joia por aqui. — Everything alright around here
32. Topar: To accept
Example: Você topa ver um filme hoje? — Do you want to watch a movie tonight?
33. Caramba: Damn it
Example: Caramba, esqueci o dinheiro. — Damn it, I forgot my money.
34. Valeu: Thank you
Example: Valeu pela ajuda. — Thank you for the help.
35. Pagar mico: Embarrassment
Example: Paguei o maior mico ontem à noite. — Last night was so embarrassing.
Now you should be covered with the most basic phrases as well as some of the more advanced vocabulary.As you can see, a few dozens of phrases and words are very helpful to pave your path into becoming a fluent Portuguese speaker. So go ahead and enjoy the linguistic and cultural complexity of the Lusophone world!
Boa sorte! (Good luck!)
Livia Catran Azaria, Portuguese Content & Product Writer at Wix
I’m a polyglot who is passionate about interacting with different cultures, discovering the world, and eating good food on the way.