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10 words that English borrowed from Portuguese

I've been doing this series of posts about words that English borrowed from other languages and today I'm going to focus on my native language: Portuguese.


Read: 10 words that English borrowed from Spanish

Read: 10 words that English borrowed from French

Read: 10 words that English borrowed from Japanese


I have to confess that it was hard coming up with a list of ten words because the ones I rememberd came from Latin via Portuguese so I didn't want to include those.

Anyway, here we go:

1. PIRANHA
I guess you know what it means: it's a small flesh-eating fish. The word comes from Tupi, which is the language originally spoken in Brazil before it was colonized by the Portuguese.

What you probably didn't know is that "piranha" is also a Brazilian Portuguese curse word.

2. JAGUAR
Another word that comes from Tupi via Portuguese. So, whether you're talking about the animal, the car or the OS, you're speaking a bit of Portuguese!

3. ZEBRA
Don't worry, my list doesn't only have animal names, but I couldn't leave out "zebra".
In Brazilian Portuguese, "zebra" might also refer to "the underdog" in a competition/game.

4. SAMBA
"Samba" refers to both the dance and the music that is so popular in Brazil. It's the music/dance of Carnaval. I have to tell you, though, that I can neither sing nor dance samba. I'd much rather listen to jazz.

5. BOSSA NOVA
It's a kind of music originated in Brazil in the 50s. The literal meaning is "new trend", but we rarely use the word for "trend" (bossa) nowadays.
If you've never heard of it, check out this YouTube "video". It's just the song and not a video of the singer, but it's got subtitles in English:



The singer is João Gilberto and this is one of the most famous bossa nova songs.

6. TAPIOCA
If you like tapioca pudding, you should know that "tapioca" is a Brazilian word and dessert. Would you believe that I've never eaten it? If you've got any recipes, let me know!

7. CASHEW
The next three words are borrowed from Portuguese, but their spelling has changed on their travel through languages.
In Portuguese "cashew" is "caju" and it's my favorite nut.

8. TOUCAN
I love how languages work. "Toucan" comes from Tupi via Portuguese via French! Hence, the French spelling instead of the Portuguese one: tucano.
The toucan is also the symbol for one of the most important political parties in Brazil.

9. TANK
"Tank", as in fish tank or fuel tank, comes the Portuguese word "tanque". I have to say that this one surprised me as I was researching for this post as I had never realized where the word had come from!

10. CAIPIRINHA
If you've never heard of "caipirinha" and you have never drunk it, stop everything and go check out how to prepare it. It will change your concept of summer drink. This is one of the most popular drinks in Brazil. It's a cocktail made with lime, sugar and "cachaça", a Brazilian liquor distilled from sugarcane. Just be careful, it's super strong, but you won't feel it until you stand up.

READ: Teacher-authors around the world: meet Catia from Portugal!


Well, there you have it! If you know of any other words borrowed from Portuguese or if you liked reading this post, leave me a comment below (I love comments!).

7 comments:

  1. Cashew- how can it not be everyone's favorite? I read all three of the word posts- these will be good in class for expanding vocabulary knowledge.
    ~Heather
    The Meek Moose

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    Replies
    1. I know - people who don't like cashew are nuts (sorry, couldn't avoid the pun!)
      Thank you for reading all three posts - I love writing this series!
      - Lucy :D

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  2. Very interesting, Lucy! I especially enjoyed learning about the "popular" meanings of some of these words. Thanks!

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    1. I thought it would be timely because of the Soccer World Cup in Brazil.
      Glad you found it interesting :)
      - Lucy

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  3. Lucy, I'm your latest follower and I love your "About Me" section.

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT
    Teaching with Sight

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sharon,

      Here's something interesting: about one year ago I pinned one of your freebies. I didn't know you, but I thought the product was very good. It was repinned many times. Here's the link in case you want to track it:
      http://www.pinterest.com/pin/5911043234188707/

      Thanks for reading my blog and for following!!

      Cheers,
      Lucy

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  4. Other words :
    Breeze
    Cobra
    Embarrass
    Flamingo
    Marmalade
    Molasses
    Mosquito
    ^^^ all came from Portuguese

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