Portuguese Words That Entered Into English

As many of you know, English has a long history of borrowing words from other places and times. Here is a list of English words borrowed from Portuguese, whether or not they originate from Portuguese itself.

Albacore
from albacor from Arabic al-bukr (=”the young camels”)
Albino
from albino, with the same meaning, from Latin albus
Albatross
an alteration of alcatraz, under influence of the Latin word albus (“white”);
Alcatraz
(=”gannet”) from Arabic al-ġaţţās (“the diver”)
Banana
from Spanish or Portuguese (more probably from Portuguese, as the most widespread Spanish word is plátano); Spanish, from Portuguese, of African origin; akin to Wolof banäna banana
Baroque
from barroco (adj. = “unshapely”)
Breeze
(= “from Portuguese word brisa”)
Buccaneer
from Tupi mukém
Caramel
from caramelo, caramel, from Late Latin calamellus
Cashew
from caju (a tropical fruit)
Cobra
from cobra (snake)
Coconut
from côco (boogeyman head, grinning skull, goblin, coconut)
Commando
from comando
Embarrass
from embaraçar
Emu
from ema (=”rhea”)
Fetish
from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço (“charm”, “sorcery”, “spell”), from Latin factitius or feticius
(“artificial”)
Flamingo
from Portuguese flamingo, from Spanish flamenco
Macaw
from macau
Mandarin
from mandarim, from the Portuguese verb mandar and the Malay mantri, from Hindi matri, from Sanskrit
mantrin (=”counsellor”)
Mango
from manga from Tamil manggai
Mangrove
probably from Portuguese mangue mangrove (from Spanish mangle, probably from Taino) + English grove
Manioc
from mandioca from Tupi
Marmalade
from marmelada, a preserve made from marmelo (=”quince”)
Molasses
from melaço
Monsoon
from monção
Negro
Negro means “black” in Spanish and Portuguese, being from the Latin word niger of the same meaning. It came to English through the Portuguese and Spanish slave trade. Prior to the 1970s, it was the dominant term for Black people of African origin; in most English language contexts (except its inclusion in the names of some organizations founded when the term had currency, e.g. the United Negro College Fund), it is now considered either archaic or a slur in most contexts.
Pickaninny
from pequenina or pequeninha
Piranha
from piranha, from Tupi pirá (“fish”) + ánha (“cut”)
Savvy
from sabe he knows, from saber to know
Tank
from tanque
Tapioca
from tapioca
Yam
from inhame from West African nyama (=”eat”)
Zebra
from zebra, given after a kind of extinct horse living between Portugal and Galicia when these languages were the same

5 thoughts on “Portuguese Words That Entered Into English

  1. Although I do agree that carril is Portuguese for curry, the word “curry” is an Anglicized spelling of Tamil kari, a general term for any spiced sauce, or in some south Indian dialects, an old word for black pepper.

  2. But… the sole traders for kari at the XVI-XVII centuries were the portuguese, that may have brought the word carril to Europe, then into English, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. Correct, they were the first Europeans to mention this type of cookery as early as 1502 even though it was the Greek and Roman traders who first encountered it many centuries earlier. The later half of my point here is moot because the post is on which words entered into English from Portuguese. The English encountered curry from the Dutch in 1598. So the question becomes, did the Dutch get the name and pronunciation from the Portuguese? I don’t know but it’s possible.

  4. How ’bout ‘soba’? I always suspected that the Japanese noodle soup came from Portuguese ‘sopa’. As I know their tempura was a recreation from some sort of Portuguese fritter. Now I don’t think the word ‘tempura’ would have a Portuguese origin. Thanks for the great compilation. I don’t quite understand some of the correlations though.

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