Alto/a – Vocabulary

Alto in Portuguese has a few meanings that you are sure to come across, the most basic of which are ‘tall (or high)’ and ‘loud (or loudly)’. On the other hand, when you use it in the feminine and proceed it with the verb ‘receber‘ (to receive), it means to be discharged or released, as in from a hospital. Technically, the phrase should be ‘receber alta hospitalar‘, where hospitalar means ‘that which pertains to a hospital’, but no one uses it in my experience. As for why ‘alta’ is used and not something more seemingly sensible, at least from a native English-speaker’s standpoint, like ‘descarga‘ (discharge), I haven’t the slightest (though ‘receber descarga‘ might be understood as a ‘…descarga elétrica‘, or electric shock).

Ex. Ele recebeu alta do hospital ontem.
Ex. He was released from the hospital yesterday.

4 thoughts on “Alto/a – Vocabulary

  1. I knew about ‘being discharged’ but I never heard “being released” in this context. It sounds odd, actually. It’s like you’re being kept a prisoner. ‘Descarga’ is never used as a verb in Portuguese, if you say ‘receber descarga (elétrica)’ it means get an electric shock.

    • Being released is more common in English than being discharged and the latter is more used for military action (being discharged from the military for conduct unbecoming an officer).

  2. “Receber alta” from the hospital is the opposite of “dar baixa”, being admitted to the hospital.

    Ex. Joãozinho deu baixa no pronto-socorro, ele está doente.
    Ex. Little John was admitted to the emergency room, he’s sick.

    “Alto” vs. “Baixo” is also tall/short, high/low, loud/quiet.

    • For military use, strangely, the opposite is used. “Dar baixa no Exército” means “getting discharged from the Army”. Also strangely, you can’t use “alta” for entering the military (there’s no such thing as “receber alta do Exército”).

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