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7 Words in Portuguese That Mean Something Else in Brazil

As we know, Brazilians speak Portuguese following the 16th-century colonisation of the country by Pedro Álvares Cabral, so if you know a few words of Portuguese you're more than likely to be able to get your point across in South America's biggest country.

However, there are certain words that mean one thing in European Portuguese and quite another in certain Brazilian dialects. As you might expect, some of these words can have a distinctly adult flavour, so you’ll want to make sure you get them right!


A nice, innocent word, rapariga means nothing more controversial than ‘girl’ in Portugal. Unfortunately, if you use the word in certain circumstances in Brazil it can mean something quite different, and pretty disparaging – rapariga can be used as the Brazilian word for ‘mistress’ or even ‘prostitute’, so there’s clearly a minefield to be avoided there.

Ligadura / Atadura

While it’s not nice to think of hurting yourself while on holiday, there are occasions where you may find yourself needing to ask for a bandage if you come across a particularly nasty rock at the beach. In Portugal, you’ll want to ask the nurse for a ligadura to stem the blood flow, but the same word in Brazil will have staff at the hospital scratching their heads – the equivalent word over there is actually atadura.


This one handily combines the subjects of the previous two. In Portugal, pica is a standard term for an injection. An injection of course will give you a prick, which is what the word can mean in Brazilian Portuguese – pica is often used as a comedic term for a man’s most personal device. Get that one confused and you could find yourself in a situation you certainly hadn’t expected.


This one is quite odd: if you put the English word ‘queue’ into an online translator, the Portuguese word returned is fila. However, an alternative word given for queue is bicha, which is quite an unpleasant word in Brazil – a derogatory term for a homosexual man.

Chávena / Xícara

It’s likely to be quite difficult to talk about a ‘cup’ in Brazil for a while, though you’ll find it even harder if you use the European Portuguese word for a cup, chávena. In Brazil, the equivalent word is xícara.

Alcunha / apelido

Similarly related to football, Portuguese and Brazilian players often have such outlandishly long names that they become commonly known by a shortened nickname. And ‘nickname’ itself is another language difference – in Europe the word is alcunha, but in Brazil it is apelido. Apelido in European Portuguese actually means ‘surname’.


Perhaps the strangest of all, in Portugal an abacaxi is a pineapple – no ambiguity there. But be careful when using the same word in Brazil and you may get some strange looks, as abacaxi can also mean ‘a tricky problem’. Why do you have a problem with pineapples? Only you could possibly know.

As you can see, some Portuguese words have been co-opted in Brazil to mean quite different, and often quite rude, things. You’ll clearly want to make sure you get these words right before you make a trip to Brazil but your first task should be to brush up on your general Portuguese. A fine starting point would be to find out at what level you currently speak the language with our Portuguese level test.