The Elderly – Vocabulary

There’s a few terms in Portuguese for the elderly and one is not as nice as the others. First, there’s what most Portuguese learners would use, which is ‘velho‘ which can be used both as an adjective and a noun. This is considered the least nicest term. Next, there’s ‘idoso‘ which is translated as ‘elder’ or ‘elderly’.

The third term is more about the time in their life when they reach a certain age (usually 60), where in English one might rudely say someone is ‘over the hill’, in Brazilian Portuguese one could a general term known as ‘terceira idade‘, which translates to ‘third age’. The idea is that the first age is one’s infancy and adolescence while the second age is adulthood.

One term in English that isn’t portrayed in Portuguese is ‘senior’ or ‘senior citizen’, which we use yet I’m not sure how ‘acceptable’ it is to those who are. One term in Portuguese that is rarely, if ever used is ‘ancião‘, or ancient.

Here’s a random question, are there ‘golden birthdays’ in Brazil? For example, I was born on the first of the month so my golden birthday is my first birthday, so it’s when your birthday matches your age. It doesn’t really hold much significance but for those who are curious, it was developed in 1955 by Joan Bramsch who one day just had the idea and it spread from there.

More Info

Article about 3rd Age (in PT)

5 thoughts on “The Elderly – Vocabulary

  1. Hi, there are no “golden birthdays” in Brazil. If there were, this year’s birthday was my golden one. I was born in 06/20/1990

    :)

    By the way, the word “velho” (old one) is a slang also used in the vocative, the same way as “dude”.

    • Thanks, Yuri. Yeah, mine was when I was 1 yrs old so I don’t remember it but I’ve also heard that it can be the year you were born, too.

      Last year, I did a post on ways to say ‘friend’ and I mentioned ‘velho’ (véh/véi, etc) there. Thank you for the reminder. Cheers

    • Thanks, Yuri. Yeah, mine was when I was 1 yrs old so I don’t remember it but I’ve also heard that it can be the year you were born, too.

      Last year, I did a post on ways to say ‘friend’ and I mentioned ‘velho’ (véh/véi, etc) there. Thank you for the reminder. Cheers

  2. Velho is rude, idoso is more neutral and terceira idade is formal. Ancião means that the person is too old. It’s rarely used. Generally to tease someone. There is senior, but it’s not used much about age, but about experience. You can find this term in some companies. I guess the elders here have those bus cards that grant them to ride buses, I think you can find the word “senior” on those.

  3. This article is really nice, I am volunteering at a Nursing Home and I see how elderly in USA could use some of our “spice” to live Life in a more fun way!!!

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