Random Portuguese Lesson

I’ve been saving little by little random expressions, etc on my computer in order to make another Portuguese language post. Here goes it…

Imagina! – Literally, ‘imagine!’ but it is used mostly as ‘don’t mention it!’ or ‘don’t be silly’.

Mó/Maior – Mó is slang for Maior (largest/biggest), the opposite being Menor (smallest, etc). The twist is that they have entered into expressions such as “tem maior sol hoje” (lit. the sun is the biggest today, basically its really hot today). A popular expression with Mó is Mó barato (maior barato) which lit. means ‘the biggest cool’ yet in everyday language is ‘very cool’. Barato is slang too, normally it means cheap but according to a source of mine, it comes from drug culture where mó barato meant ‘a great trip’.

Mão Boba – Silly/Dummy hand and it means your hand ‘accidentally’ passed over someone else’s private parts. Basically taking advantage of a situation where you could get away with it.

Craque – Usually pertaining to futebol, meaning a star player, someone who is really good at futebol…but in recent times it can be given to anyone who is good at anything. I’m told it can mean the drug too.

Ser chegado em – Similar to a phrase I wrote about in the past (Estar a fim de), meaning you are down for something. Ser chegado em algo though has more to do with personality and not how you feel in the moment. Ex. Não sou chegado em futebol = I’m not one for (watching/playing/etc) soccer.

Negócio/Parada – Negócio means business but its slang for any unnamed object. Parada holds the same meaning too although used more in Rio.

Língua Mãe vs. Língua Materna – The two are sometimes confused. Língua Mãe means mother language while Língua Materna means maternal language. Specifically língua mãe should be used to speak of the main language from which others developed, while língua materna should be used to speak of your first language.

Nao Esquenta – Lit. Don’t heat up. In popular speech, it means ‘don’t get worked up’ or ‘calm down’ or ‘don’t worry’.

Mauricinho/Patricinha/Playboy – The two words are the male and female variety of someone born with a silver spoon, hauty-tauty, etc. Playboy is a word for a wanna be Mauricinho, although mainly a womanizer.

Galinha/Safado/Cachorro – Galinha lit. means chicken but as slang it means a guy who gets around (ie, not faithful). Safado means someone with a dirty mind, so to speak. Cachorro is a dog, lit. and fig.

Capenga/Coxo/Desajeitado – The first two words mean crippled. The last word means deformed.

Jangada, Juba – These are just two words I like, they have no connection. Jangada means a raft. Juba is a mane, such as that which a lion would have.

Seu… – Lit. means ‘your’ but it is also a way to address a man in a respectful way. If my name was Carlos, I would be Seu Carlos. Also of note, Seu… can be used in a creative way when angry at (or making fun of) someone. Seu Idiota!

Mar/Maré – Mar is sea. Maré is tide.

Bêbado/Embriagado/Perder a Linha – Three ways to say ‘drunk’. Bêbado being the most commonly heard. Embriagado is a little more formal, meaning intoxicated. Perder a linha means to have crossed the line into complete drunkenness.

Mourão, Mourão – Similarly, there is a saying with losing a tooth as a child. It goes like this…”Mourão, Mourão, Tome este dente podre, e me dê outro são!” (take this rotten tooth and give me another thats sane!). After you say the phrase, you throw your tooth on the roof. More on the story behind this can be found here (in Portuguese).

Prece/Oração/Reza – All three mean ‘prayer’.

Devagar/Vagar/Vagabundo – Vagar is a verb I heard in a Brazilian period piece (film) which I took to mean ‘to wander/roam’. I’m not sure as to its popularity these days but I also took it to be the root of ‘slow’ in Portuguese (devagar…which would be ‘de vagar’). I’m also taking a leap to connect it to the word for bum or wanderer (Vagabundo).


12 thoughts on “Random Portuguese Lesson

  1. Hey Adam! How’s it going? I’ve just read your post and I noticed that you didn’t mention that “imagina!” is used by paulistas. Actually, most people don’t know that here in Brazil, so it’s worth saying it.

  2. I’ve never heard about this “mourão, mourão” sentence. I asked my friend and he never heard it either. It may be really old and not used anymore. It’s funny how I learned this in an American blog.

  3. Hey, Adam, congratulations on this blog of yours. For me (a guy from Rio de Janeiro) it’s very interesting finding different and positive views of my country. Brazilians tend to put their nationality steem very down, thus idolizing other countries.
    As a student of foreign languages, I’d like to help you with a point on the example of the use of “Seu” as on “Seu Carlos”; using it this way, it seems, historically, that Seu is short form of Senhor. So “Seu Carlos” is the same as saying in english “Sir Carlos”, though informally.

  4. Thanks Pedro, I was trying to find an equivalent in English. Sir works!

    I obviously see a lot of positive things in Brazil and my hope is to show English-speakers the same things. I think I’m doing pretty good so far but more readers would always be nice!


  5. a couple of comments:

    my portutuese is probably not as good as yours, but i live in brazil and i can tell you that “imagina” can also be used to mean the exact same thing in english: “imagina se eu fui para la e … ” (“imagine if i went there and … “).

    it can also mean something equivalent to “don’t be silly!”, as in, “voce e linda!” (“you’re beautiful”) and the person responds, “imagina!”.

    i have never heard this “mo” in place of “maior”.

    i live in rio, and here “playboy” means exactly the same thing as it means in english, without any financial connotations: basically a womanizer (but here meaning one with a particularly “macho” attitude). it has nothing to do with being wealthy or being born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth.

    “seu” is not used just in anger. any time you want to call someone something, in fun or in anger or whatever, you can say “seu …” for example, if you want to say “you’re lying”, you say “seu mentiroso!”; when you want to say someone is being lazy, you say “seu preguicoso!”; when you want to say someone is being funny, you say “seu bobo!” ou “seu palhaco”. similarly, when you want to call someone a name, you can say “sua babaca” (you jackass), or “seu safado” (you naughty/nasty (in the sexual sense) boy or man). etc, etc, etc.

    lastly, “craque” is also used to mean the drug: crack.

    thanks for the excellent site. :-)


  6. Hi Don,

    First, thanks for the long response. I leave the comments here on the lesson section so that others can get different perspectives.

    I didn’t know about the other meaning of craque.

    Good point on Seu, I should have added a more general conotation of talking down to someone, although I didn’t think of the doing it in fun part.

    As for playboy, aside from inserting my own general knowledge of the term, I wrote it thinking of my own experience too. I lived in an everyday place outside of Rio and when I wore anything that had a name or picture or anything on it, I was told that made me a playboy. Perhaps the connection was not with buying fancy clothes but with a style that playboys try to imitate. In any event, the Brazilian clothes I saw in the ‘shoppings’ cost 2 – 3x what mine cost.

    Mo in place of maior is slang for the youth.

    Good point on the imagina being ‘dont be silly’ also. As for the other meanings, I mentioned them in my post.

  7. hi, adam.

    thanks for your comments as well.

    i wouldn’t say that “seu” is used to talk down to someone, because joking with someone even if you are calling them a name is not talking down to them. and i hear it used much more in joking or playing with someone than i do in any angry or insulting kind of way.

    i didn’t get the sense of the other uses for “imagina” in your post, so that’s why i wrote what i did about it.

    but the real reason that i wanted to respond to your response is because i thought what you said about “playboy” was very interesting, putting its use in context. it reminded me that in ipanema, where i live, everyone with any sense of fashion and any economic means wears shirts with words (often in incorrect english, even the most expensive and supposedly chic ones) and pictures on them, even children, teenagers and older men, etc, etc, etc. wearing that would mostly certainly not get you called a playboy here in zona sul (“the southern district”). use of “playboy” in the context you describe seems to be a phenomenon particular to the metropolitan rio region where you spent time (these distinctions are a little fuzzy for me, so i’m not even sure where campo grande is considered to be in the local concepts of these things: zona oeste? a baixada fluminense? no suburbio?).

    so speaking of the relativity of experience, as a gay man living in ipanema, when i hear the word “playboy” used it almost always refers to the kind of straight man that we might have to watch out for: not only does he think he’s all that with the women but he is more likely to be dangerous to people he thinks aren’t sufficiently macho like he is (i.e., to gay-bash). so in my neighborhood it can have that connotation as well, a sense of “watch out for him”, “be careful what you do or say around him” … por que ele e um playboy. entendeu?

    um abraco,


  8. Got it, good point. It seems region plays a role in the use of certain terms.

    I’ve seen plenty of those t-shirts, and its funny the people don’t realize they makes no sense. If I remember correctly, one said “to be successful is to be great!” or something to that effect. I thought, “yes…and?” lol

    Cpo. Grande is Zona Oeste, yes. 2 hours by bus (45 min. by car) from the Zona Sul.


  9. it’s been years since I lived in brasil, and all I can say is that this reminded me of what I learned while living in Sao Paulo de Rio Preto, SP. Thanks for the warm fuzzy feeling! Eu tenho saudades…!


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