Portuguese Language

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Portuguese is a Romance language spoken in various countries, including Angola, Brazil, East Timor, Mozambique and Portugal. With 199 million native speakers, Portuguese is the fifth or sixth most popular mother-tongue language in the world, and the second Romance language, outnumbered only by Spanish, and one of the few languages spoken all over the world.

Portuguese is nicknamed A língua de Camões ("The language of Camoens", after Luís de Camões, the author of The Lusiad); and A última flor do Lácio ("The last flower of Latium"). Portuguese language speakers are known as Lusófonos or "Lusophone".

Portuguese (Português)
Spoken in: Andorra, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Luxembourg, Macau, Mozambique, Namibia, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, India, South Africa, Spain and 20 other countries.
Total speakers: 199 Million - 207 Million1
Ranking: 6
Official status
Official language of: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe
Regulated by: International Portuguese Language Institute; CPLP
Language codes
ISO 639-1: pt
ISO 639-2: por
The Portuguese language was spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal created the first and the longest lived modern-world colonial and commercial empire (1415 - 1975), spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China and Japan. As a result of that expansion, Portuguese is now the official language of several independent countries, and is widely spoken or studied as a second language in many others. There are still more than 20 Portuguese Creole languages. It is an important minority language in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia and South Africa. Large Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities exist in many cities around the world, e.g. Paris in France, Boston, New Jersey, California and Miami in the USA.

1 History

2 Classification and related languages

3 Geographic distribution

4 Sounds

5 Grammar

6 Vocabulary

7 Writing system

8 Examples

9 Notes

10 External links

Table of contents


Portuguese developed in the Western Iberian Peninsula from the spoken Latin language brought there by Roman soldiers and colonist starting in the 3rd century BC. The language began to differentiate itself from other Romance languages after the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions in the 5th century. It started to be used in written documents around the 9th century, and by the 15th century it had become a mature language with a rich literature.

Roman colonization

The Romans conquered the Western Iberian Peninsula, later the Roman province of Lusitania, currently Portugal and Galicia (region of Spain) in 218 BC, and brought with them a popular version of Latin, the Vulgar Latin from which all Romance languages descend. Almost 90% of the Portuguese lexicon comes from Latin. although the Iberian Peninsula was inhabited since well before the Roman colonization, very few traces of the native languages persist in modern Portuguese.

Barbarian invasions

Between 409 A.D. and 711, as the Roman Empire was collapsing, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by peoples of germanic origin, known by the Romans as Barbarians. The Barbarians (mainly Suevi and Visigoths) largely absorbed the Roman culture and language of the peninsula; however, since the Roman schools were closed, the Latin language was left free to evolve on its own. As each barbarian tribe spoke Latin in a different way, the uniformity of the Peninsula was soon disrupted, leading to the formation of well-differentiated languages (Portuguese-Galician, Spanish and Catalan). The Suevi people, in particular, are believed to be responsible for the linguistic differentiation of the Portuguese and Galician dialects away from the Spanish ones. The Germanic languages influenced Portuguese in words linked to war and violence, such as "Guerra" (to mean War).

Moorish invasion

From 711, with the Moorish invasion of the Peninsula, Arabic was adopted as the administrative language in the conquered regions. However, the population continued to speak Romance; so that when the Moors were expelled, the influence that they had exerted on the language was small. Its main effect was in the lexicon: modern Portuguese still has a large number of words of Arabic origin, especially relating to food and agriculture, which have no cognates in other Romance languages. The Arabic influence is also visible in placenames throughout the Southern provinces, such as Algarve and Fátima.

The rise of the Portuguese language

Ajuda Library, created in the 15th century as Enlarge

Ajuda Library, created in the 15th century as "Royal Library". Mother of the Portuguese and Brazilian National Libraries. (courtesy IPPAR)

The ancient Roman province of Lusitania had split into two separate provinces, Lusitania in the south and Galecia in the north. The Portuguese language developed mainly in Northern Portugal and Galicia (northwestern region of Spain), but was largely influenced by similar Romance dialects spoken in southern Portugal. For a long time the Romance dialect of that region evolved only as a spoken language.

The earliest surviving records of a distinctively Portuguese language are administrative documents from the 9th century, still interspersed with many phrases in Latin.

Portugal became an independent country in 1143, with King Afonso Henriques. The written vernacular came gradually into general use in the following centuries. The ensuing relative political and geographical separation between Portugal and Castile (later Spain) allowed the two countries to evolve their vernacular Latin into more separate directions, in that time they were already two distinctive languages. In 1290, king Diniz created the first Portuguese University in Lisbon (the Estudo Geral) and decreed that Portuguese, then simply called the "Vulgar language" (i.e. Vulgar Latin) should be used in preference to Classical Latin and known as "Portuguese language". In 1296, Portuguese is adopted by Royal Chancellary. Used now not only in poetry but also when writing law and in notaries.

Until 1350, the language Portuguese-Galician remained the native language of Galicia and Portugal only; but by the 14th century Portuguese had become a mature language with a rich literary tradition, becoming a popular language for poetry in Iberia, adopted by many Leonese, Castilian, Aragonese and Catalan poets. Some time later, when Castilian (basically modern Spanish) also became popular in Castilian realms, Galicia came under the influence of Castilian language, and the southern variant became the language of Portugal.

The Portuguese discoveries

Sagres, in the ancient Roman Enlarge

Sagres, in the ancient Roman "Promontorium Sacrum" -dedicated to god Saturn. Symbol of the Portuguese discoveries and the 15th century world's leading scientific and technological center. (from IPPAR)

Between the 14th and the 16th centuries, with the Portuguese discoveries, the Portuguese language spread to many regions of Asia, Africa and America. By the 16th century it had become a lingua franca in Asia and Africa, used not only for colonial administration and trade but also for communication between local officials and Europeans of all nationalities. In Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) several kings became fluent speakers of Portuguese, and nobles often took Portuguese names. The spread of the language was helped by mixed marriages between Portuguese and local people (also very common in other areas of the world), and its association with the Catholic missionary efforts which led to the language being called Cristão ("Christian") in many places. The language continued popular even in despite severe measures taken by the Dutch to abolish it in Ceylon and Indonesia

Some Portuguese-speaking Christian communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserved their language even after they were isolated from Portugal, and have evolved through the centuries into several Portuguese Creoles. Also, many words of Portuguese origin entered the lexicons of many other languages such as "pan" to mean "bread" in Japanese (from "pão"), "sepatu" to mean "shoe" in Indonesian (from "sapato"), "keju" to mean "cheese" in Malay (from "queijo"), "meza" to mean table in Swahili (from "mesa").

The Renaissance

With the Renaissance, increases in the number of words of Classical Latin origin and erudite words of Greek origin increased the complexity of Portuguese. The end of "Old Portuguese" was marked by the publication of the Cancioneiro Geral de Garcia de Resende, in 1516. But Old Portuguese is still spoken, as a dialect, especially in São Tomé and Principe, but also Brazil, Portugal and Angola.

Classification and related languages

Indo-European - Italic - Romance - Italo-Western - Western - Gallo-Iberian - Ibero-Romance - West-Iberian - Portuguese-Galician

Portuguese is orthographically similar in many ways to Spanish, it is very different in speech. A speaker of one may require some practice to effectively understand a speaker of the other. Compare, for example:

Ela fecha sempre a janela antes de jantar. (Portuguese)

Ella cierra siempre la ventana antes de cenar. (Spanish)

A large number of words in Spanish or Portuguese have close relatives in both languages if you are cultivated enough to use less common words:

Ela encerra sempre a janela antes de cear. (less common Portuguese)

(Which translates as "She always closes the window before having dinner.")

In some places, Spanish and Portuguese are spoken almost interchangeably. Portuguese speakers are generally able to read Spanish, and Spanish speakers are generally able to read Portuguese, even if they cannot understand the spoken language. Tourists in Portugal and Brazil should note that trying to communicate with the locals in Spanish may seem offensive. French or English languages should be preferred in Portugal, if not speaking Portuguese. Portuguese people appreciate an "olá" for hello and "tchau" for good-bye (the standard is "Adeus", not commonly used because it can be seen as offensive).

Portuguese has obvious similaries also with Catalan, Italian and with other Romance languages. Speakers of other Romance languages may find a peculiarity in the conjugating of certain apparently infinitive verbs. In particular, when constructing a future tense or conditional tense expression involving an indirect object pronoun, the pronoun is placed between the verb stem and the verb ending. For example, Dupondt said trazer-vos-emos o vosso ceptro. Translating as literally as possible, this is "bring (stem)-to you (formal)-we (future) the your scepter". In English we would say, "We will bring you your scepter." The form Nós vos traremos o vosso ceptro. is also correct, although less common in Portugal, but more common in Brazil.

Geographic distribution

Portuguese is the first language in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe. And, it is the most widely used language in Mozambique.

Portuguese is also one of the official languages of East Timor (with Tetum) and Macau (with Chinese). It is largely spoken, but not official, in Andorra, Luxembourg and Namibia. Portuguese Creoles are the mother tongue of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau's population.

The Americas

Nevertheless, the language of Camões is growing in importance in South America. Because of Brazil, it is being taught (and is popular, especially in Argentina) in the rest of the South American countries that constitute Mercosul (Mercosur). There are 182.1 million people in Brazil who use Portuguese as their main language, but there are also first-language speakers in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, where a hybrid dialect, known as "portuñol" (from português and español) has emerged. In the rest of the Americas, there are also important communities in: Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, United States (0.6 million active speakers in a community of 1.5 million, especially in New Jersey) and Venezuela.


In Europe, Portuguese is spoken mainly in Portugal by its 10.3 million inhabitants, as first language. The language is also spoken throughout Europe by Portuguese influence, by more than 10% of the population of Luxembourg and Andorra. There are also strong Portuguese speaking communities in Belgium, France, Germany, Jersey and Switzerland. It is also spoken in Spain, especially in Galicia (known officially as Galician), Olivença and in Vale do Xalima (known as A fala).

Galician (Galego) can be seen as a somewhat Castilianized form of Portuguese. The current Galician Autonomous Government backs a standard variety of Galician which distances it from Portuguese and makes its written form more similar to Spanish. Nevertheless, there is another standard, used in some political circles and universities, that treats Galician as a Portuguese dialect with minor differences. Linguists have always recognized the unity of these linguistic varieties (for instance, Corominas, Lindley Cintra, Coseriu, etc), as they were once just the same language and both are relatively conservative varieties. However, in practice, they are sometimes treated as different languages by both populations mainly due to sociolinguistic factors, with works in Galician being translated into Portuguese and vice versa. During the Middle Ages, Galician and Portuguese were undoubtedly the same language, nowadays known as Portuguese-Galician, a language used for poetic works even in Castile. The only Galician deputy in the European Union Parliament, Camilo Nogueira, speaks in Portuguese and says that his language is already official in the EU, that is Portuguese.


In sub-Saharan Africa, Portuguese is a growing language and is projected by UNESCO to be one of the most spoken languages within 50 years. As the populations of Angola and Mozambique continue to grow, their influence on Portuguese will becoming increasingly important. Angola and Mozambique, along with São Tomé and Príncipe, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau are known as the Paises Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa (Official Portuguese Language African Countries) or PALOP, forming a community of some 16 million speakers (9 million use it has first or only language, the rest are bilinguals, using the language daily). The Portuguese language especially grew in use after the independence of Portugal's former colonies. Independence movements from Guinea-Bissau to Mozambique saw it as an instrument to achieve their countries development and national unity. Portuguese is a minority language in Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Namibia (Angolan refuges, ~20% of the Population), South Africa (more than one million speakers), Zambia and Zimbabwe.

A representation of the placement of a standard of Portugal after it's discovery of the Congo river in the 15th century. In the 21st century, Africa is home to the fastest growing Portuguese speaking countries, making Africa a major player in the future development of PortugueseEnlarge

A representation of the placement of a standard of Portugal after it's discovery of the Congo river in the 15th century. In the 21st century, Africa is home to the fastest growing Portuguese speaking countries, making Africa a major player in the future development of Portuguese

There are strong Portuguese creoles in other parts of Africa. The south of Senegal, known as Casamance has an active community that is linked culturally and linguistically to Guinea-Bissau and learning Portuguese is popular. A Portuguese creole linked to São Tomé and Principe is the language of the island of Annobón, Equatorial Guinea.

In Angola, Portuguese is quickly becoming a national language rather than only an official language or a cohesion vehicle. By the census of 1983, in the capital, Luanda, Portuguese was the first language of 75% of a population of 2.5 million. In the entire country 60% of the 12.5 million inhabitants spoke Portuguses as their main spoken language . Most younger Angolans can only speak Portuguese. Angola receives several Portuguese and Brazilian televison stations, a Portuguese news TV station (SIC Notícias) became very popular in Angola in a record time after it started broadcasting there in 2003. There are also many other native languages in Angola, though the population treats them as dialects and not languages. Some words from those languages have been borrowed by Portuguese, when the retornados returned to Portugal after Angola's independence. Words like (yes), bué (many) or bazar (going away), common in the young and urban Portuguese population have their origin in Angolan languages, used in Angolan Portuguese.

Mozambique is among the countries where the Portuguese has the status of official language, being spoken essentially as a second language. However, it is the main language in the cities. According to the Census of 1997, Portuguese speakers account for more than 40% of the population, this number rises to more than 72% in the urban areas. But only 9% consider Portuguese as their main language (26% in the cities). All the Mozambican writers write in Portuguese, it has become attached to the colour and texture of the Mozambican culture.

In Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, the most widely spoken languages are Portuguese creoles known as Crioulos, and the informal use of the Portuguese language seems to decrease. Most Cape Verdians can also speak Standard Portuguese, used formally. There is some decreoulization due to education and the "Cape Verdian fever", the popularity of Portugal's national TV channels. The case is a bit different in Guinea-Bissau where, Portuguese and its Creole is spoken by more than 60% of the inhabitants, of which Portuguese itself is only spoken by 14%.

In São Tomé and Príncipe, the Portuguese used by the population is an archaic Portuguese, known as São Tomean Portuguese, presenting many similarities with Brazilian Portuguese. Politicians and the upper classes use the modern European Portuguese variety, much like the other PALOP countries. Three different Portuguese creoles are also spoken in São Tomé and Príncipe. Children usually can only speak Portuguese, because of their parents preference, and not because of school, by the time they are adults they usually have learned a Portuguese Creole known as Forro. But more than 50% of the population keeps using Portuguese informally daily and its use seems to increase. Almost all the population can speak Portuguese.


Portuguese is also spoken in Asia, especially in East Timor, Goa, Daman and Diu in India, and Macau in China. In Goa, where it is spoken by an increasingly small minority, it is seen as the 'language of grandparents', because it is no longer taught in schools, nor is it an official language. In Macau, Portuguese remains an official language with equal status to Chinese, although only the small Macanese or Eurasian population uses it and only there is only one Portuguese-medium school.

In Malacca in Malaysia, there is a Portuguese creole known as Cristão or Papiá Kristang still spoken by some of the Eurasian population. There are also active Portuguese creoles, especially in India (Daman and Korlai) and Sri Lanka. In Japan, Portuguese is spoken by Brazilians of Japanese descent, known as dekasegui, who number approximately 250,000 people.

In East Timor, the most spoken language is Tetum, an Austronesian language, but it has been heavily influenced by Portuguese. The reintroduction of Portuguese as an official language has caused suspicion and resentment among some younger East Timorese who have been educated under the Indonesian system, and do not speak it. Portuguese in East Timor is spoken by less than 20% of its population, mostly the elder generation, though this percentage is increasing as Portuguese is being taught to the younger generation and to interrested adults. East Timor asked the other CPLP nations to help it to reintroduce Portuguese as an official language. East Timor uses Portuguese to link itself to a larger international community and to differentiate itself from Indonesia. Xanana Gusmão, president of East Timor, believes that Portuguese will be widely spoken again within 10 years.

Official status

The CPLP or Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries is an international organization consisting of the eight independent countries which have Portuguese as an official language. Portuguese is also an official language of the European Union, Mercosul and the African Union (one of the working languages) and a one of the official languages of other organizations. Except for the Asian territories (East Timor and Macau), Portuguese is the sole official language in each country.

The following table includes countries where Portuguese language is official and while not official, where it is largely spoken.

country speakers speakers population obs.
(native) (July 2003)
Angola 60% NA 10,766,471 Official, 1983
Cape Verde NA 80% 412,137
Guinea-Bissau NA 14% 1,360,827
Mozambique 9% 40% 17,479,266 Official, 1997
São Tomé and Príncipe 50% 95% 175,883
not official:
Namibia 20% 20% 1,927,447
South Africa 1% 1% 42,768,678
East Timor NA 15% 997,853
Macau, China 2% NA 469,903
not official:
Daman, India 10% 10% NA
Goa, India 3-5% 5% NA
Portugal 100% 100% 10,102,022
not official:
Andorra 11% 11% 69,150
Luxembourg 13% 13% 454,157
South America
Brazil 98-99% 100% 182,032,604

note: In Spain, Galicia2 (circa 90%) and Vale do Xálima3, the language is also largely spoken.

Written varieties

Portuguese has two written varieties (Port. Variedades) but Portuguese speakers prefer to name them as Padrões (Eng Patterns):

  • European and African Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese
The differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese varieties are in vocabulary, pronunciation and syntax, especially in popular varieties, while between upper-class Brazilians these differences ease largely. The differences are somewhat less than those between American English and British English. Both varieties are undoubtedly dialects of the same language and speakers from both varieties can easily understand each other.

Some apparent differences between the two varieties in lexicon are not really differences. In Brazil, the standard term for carpet is tapete. And, in Portugal, alcatifa. However, some dialectal zones in Portugal uses tapete and other areas in Brazil uses alcatifa. This applies in almost all such apparent differences, except in the new terms, such as ônibus in Brazil, that is Autocarro in Portugal.

The Brazilian version of Portuguese is referred not because of its distinct lexicon or pronunciation (considered natural even in a single country) but rather due to the written form. Brazil eliminated most first "c" when "cc", "cç" or "ct"; and "p" when "pc", "pç" or "pt" from the language since they are not pronounced in the cultivated spoken language, a remnant from the language's Latin origin (some continue to exist in cultivated Brazilian Portuguese, some more in the European).

Portugal and Africa Brazil Translation
acção ação action
contracto contrato contract
direcção direção direction
eléctrico elétrico electric
óptimo ótimo great

Also, there are differences in accent marks, due to: # Different pronunciation. Brazil in words such as "Antônio" (Anthony) or "anônimo" (anonimous) uses close vowels, where Portugal and Africa uses open ones, "António" or "anónimo", respectively. In the case of Africa, it is mostly due that the European Portuguese is preferred standard. # Easy reading. Because "qu" can be read in two different ways in Portuguese: "ku" or "k", Brazil decided to facilitate it, using the diaresis. Insted of "cinquenta" they write "cinqüenta".

A Spelling Reform (Port. Reforma Ortográfica) was tried in 1990 to create an International Portuguese Standard, was ratified by Brazil, Cape Verde and Portugal. East Timor, not an original subscriber, will ratify shortly. The African countries of Portuguese language still not decided to ratify, possibly due to problems in implementing it. The Agreement establishes that its entrance into practice will only occur when all the countries of the CPLP ratify it, and this process perhaps will not occur soon. This issue is currently in debate within CPLP. The agreement will eliminate most "c" when "cc", "cç" or "ct"; and "p" when "pc", "pç" or "pt" from European Portuguese, the diaeresis and accent marks in words ending in "eia" in Brazil and added some new minor spelling rules.

Another agreement was made for the new words that will enter in the language.


Main article: Portuguese dialects

Portuguese language speakers do not understand their dialects as "dialects", but as "accents" (Port. sotaques) or even pronunciation (Port. pronúncia), even if in different countries, but especially within the same. Mostly because the term "dialect" has been used to classify a language without prestige.

Standard European Portuguese (also known as Estremenho) has changed more than the other varieties. Still, all aspects and sounds of all Portuguese (nation) dialects can be found in some Brazilian (nation) dialect. African Portuguese especially São Tomean Portuguese (also known as Santomense) has many similarities with Brazilian Portuguese (also know as carioca or fluminense), also Southern Portugal dialects presents many similarities, especially, the excessive use of the geround. In Europe, Alto-Minhoto and Transmontano are very similar to Galician.

Even with independence of the former African colonies, the standard Portuguese of Portugal is still the preferred standard for the African Portuguese countries. Thus, Portuguese has only two learning accent standards, the European and the Brazilian. Note that: in Portuguese there are four preferred accents: Coimbra's, Lisbon's, Rio de Janeiro's and São Paulo's and these four influence most other dialects.

Major Portuguese dialects:


Examples of words that are different in Portuguese dialects from three different continents Angola (Africa), Portugal (Europe) and Brazil (South America).


  • Angola: abacaxi², sometimes ananás¹
  • Brazil: abacaxi², sometimes ananás¹
  • Portugal: ananás¹, sometimes abacaxi²
Go away
  • Angola: bazar³, ir embora ¹
  • Brazil: ir embora ¹
  • Portugal: ir embora¹ (or bazar³ among teenagers)
  • Portugal: autocarro ¹
  • Brazil: ônibus ²
  • Angola: machimbombo ³
slum quarter
  • Angola: muceque ¹
  • Brazil: favela ²
  • Portugal: bairro de lata ³
(1) Portuguese origin (2) Brazilian origin (3) Angolan origin (Machimbombo is probably of Mozambican origin)

Derived languages

Main article: Portuguese Creole

Portugal in the period of discoveries and colonization created a linguistic contact with native languages and people of the discovered lands and thus pidgins were formed. Until the 18th century, these Portuguese pidgins were used as Lingua Franca in Asia and Africa. Later, the Portuguese pidgins were expanded grammatically and lexically, as it became a native language. These creoles are spoken, mostly, by inter-racial communities (Portuguese people with natives).

Cape Verde:

Equatorial Guinea:
  • Fá d'Ambô
Guinea-Bissau and Senegal: India: Macau, China: Malaysia, Singapore: Netherlands Antilles and Aruba: São Tomé and Principe: Sri Lanka: Suriname: Some hybrid dialects came to exist after an interaction with Spanish:
  • A Fala, Spain
  • Barranquenho, Portugal
  • Gallego, Spain (The official variety)
  • Portuñol, Uruguai


Main article: Portuguese sounds

The Portuguese language is particularly interesting to linguists because of the complexity of its phonetic structure. The language contains 9 vowels, 5 nasal vowels and 25 consonantal sounds. Also, Portuguese is a "free accentuation language", as distinct pronunciation exists even in the same dialect. Even with its diversity, Portuguese is one of the most unified international languages and, in each country, people tend to classify the dialects, at maximum, as accents, because they are highly intelligible.

The following "Table of Sounds and Reading" is valid in Portugal, Brazil and Africa.

letter Portuguese Meaning IPA letter Portuguese Meaning IPA
a talha cut Image:Xsampa-a.png lh alho garlic Image:Xsampa-L2.png
a amo master Image:Xsampa-6.png m- mapa map Image:Xsampa-m.png
á alto, árvore tall, tree Image:Xsampa-A2.png n- número number Image:Xsampa-n.png
am, an campo, canto field, corner Image:Xsampa-a.pngImage:Xsampa-tildor_tild.png nh ninho nest Image:Xsampa-J.png
b bola ball Image:Xsampa-b.png o santo, logo saint, soon Image:Xsampa-u.png
ca, co, cu casa house Image:Xsampa-k.png õ, om, on limões, montanha lemons, mountain Image:Xsampa-o.pngImage:Xsampa-tildor_tild.png
ça, ce, ci, ço, çu cedo, maçã early, apple Image:Xsampa-s.png ó morte, moda, nó death, fashion, knot Image:Xsampa-O2.png
ch cheque check Image:Xsampa-S2.png ô ovo, olho, avô egg, eye, grandparent Image:Xsampa-o.png
d dedo finger Image:Xsampa-d.png p parte part Image:Xsampa-p.png
e leite, vale milk, valley Image:Xsampa-1.png¹ or Image:Xsampa-i.png² qua, quo quanto, quotidiano how much, daily Image:Xsampa-k.pngImage:Xsampa-w2.png
é resto, festa, café rest, party, coofe Image:Xsampa-E2.png que qui aquele, aqui that one, here Image:Xsampa-k.png
ê medo, letra, você fear, letter, you Image:Xsampa-e.png -r mar, Marte sea, Mars Image:Xsampa-4.png
em, en lembrar, então remember, then Image:Xsampa-e.pngImage:Xsampa-tildor_tild.png r coro, caro choir, expensive Image:Xsampa-r.png
f ferro iron Image:Xsampa-f2.png rr rosa, carro rose, car Image:Xsampa-Rslash.png
ga, go gato cat Image:Xsampa-g.png s, ss sapo, assado frog, roasted Image:Xsampa-s.png
ge, gi gelo ice Image:Xsampa-Z2.png -s galinhas, arcos chickens, arcs Image:Xsampa-S2.png or Image:Xsampa-z.png³
gua água water Image:Xsampa-g.pngImage:Xsampa-w2.png (vowel)s(vowel) raso evenness Image:Xsampa-z.png
gue, gui português, guia Portuguese, guide Image:Xsampa-g.png t tosta toast Image:Xsampa-t.png
h harpa harp soundless u uvas grapes Image:Xsampa-u.png
i idiota idiot Image:Xsampa-i.png dithombs with o or u ao, mau to, bad Image:Xsampa-w2.png
dithombs with 'i' nacional, ideia national, idea Image:Xsampa-j2.png un, um um, untar one, to dip in grease Image:Xsampa-u.pngImage:Xsampa-tildor_tild.png
im, in limbo, brincar limb, to play Image:Xsampa-i.pngImage:Xsampa-tildor_tild.png v vento, velocidade wind, velocity Image:Xsampa-v.png
j jogo game Image:Xsampa-Z2.png x caixa, Xadrez, texto box, chess, text Image:Xsampa-S2.png
l logo soon Image:Xsampa-l.png x próximo next Image:Xsampa-s.png
-l Portugal, Brasil Portugal, Brazil Image:Xsampa-l_eor5.png¹ or Image:Xsampa-w2.png² z, exa, exe, exi, exo, exu exame, natureza exam, nature Image:Xsampa-z.png
¹ European/African Portuguese Standard
² Brazilian Portuguese Standard
³ The \\z\\ is largely used in Brazil (except Rio de Janeiro, Belém and other few) and Africa in every situation. In standard dialects, it is used if followed by another word (if not a pause, only), in the cases when it precedes a vowel, and it will be [ʒ] (\\Z\\ in SAMPA) or [ʃ] (\\S\\ in SAMPA) depending if the following consonant is sonorous or not. In Beira, region of Portugal, the sound is always [ʒ].


Main articles: Portuguese grammar - Portuguese personal pronouns

Verbs are divided into three declensions, which can be identified by looking at the infinitive ending, one of "-ar", "-er", "-ir" (and "-or", irregular verbs). Most verbs ends with "-ar", such as cantar (to sing). All verbs with the same ending follow the same patern.

In Portuguese, verbs are divided into moods:

  • Imperative. Used to express a wish, command or advice
  • Indicative. Used to express a fact
  • Subjective. Used to express a wish or a possibility
All Portuguese nouns have one of two genders: masculine or inclusive and feminine or exclusive. Most adjectives and pronouns, and all articles indicate the gender of the noun they reference. The feminine gender in adjectives is formed in a different way to that in nouns. Most adjectives ending in a consonant remain unchanged: homem superior (superior man), mulher superior (superior woman). This is also true for adjectives ending in "e": homem forte(strong man), mulher forte(strong woman). Except for this, the noun and the adjective must always be in agreement.


Since Portuguese is a Romance language, most of the language comes from Latin. However, other languages that have come into contact with Portuguese have left their mark.

Pre-Roman origin words

Very few traces of the native (Lusitanians, Conii, or Calicians) or pre-Roman settlers like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians or Celts lexicon persist in the language, but there are some exceptions, most are unconfirmed:

Native Iberian:

  • Abóbora (pumpkin)
  • Bezerro (year-old calf)
  • Louça (claw)
  • Manteiga (butter)
  • Sapo (frog)
  • Cabana (hut)
  • Cama (bed)
  • Camisa (shirt)
  • Carvalho(oak)
  • Cerveja (beer)
  • Touca (headress)
  • Malha (mesh)
  • Mapa (map)
  • Saco (bag)

From Latin to Portuguese

Portuguese is a descendant of an unnamed spoken Latin of the Roman Empire which was not the same language as Classical Latin (which was chiefly a literary language), but both are closely related. Some of the changes from Latin began during the Empire. Others took place later. Since Portuguese was reinfluenced by Classical Latin, some original words are still familiar to Portuguese speakers.

  • Nasalization- A vowel before [m] and [n] has a tendency to become a nasal vowel, this occurs in many languages. In the case of Portuguese, it happened between the 6th and 7th centuries. This change sharply distinguishes Portuguese from Spanish, in which it did not occur.
    • Moon in Vulgar Latin is LUNA becomes l[ũ]a in Portuguese (written as Lua).
  • Palatalization- Another assimilation occurs before the high vowels [i] and [e], or near the semi-vowel, or palatal [j].
    • CENTU -> [tj]ento > [ts]ento > cento, (hundred)
    • FACERE > fa[tj]ere > fa[ts]er > fa[dz]er > fazer, (to do)
    • A more ancient evolution was FORTIA -> for[ts]a > força (strength)
  • Elision- Simultaneous influence in a consonant by vowels, occurring a sintagmatic chain.
    • DOLORE -> door > dor (pain)
    • BONU -> bõo > bom, (good)
    • ANELLU -> ãelo > elo (Ring)
  • Voicing- some consonants didnt disappear but rather evolved:
    • MUTU -> mudo (deaf)
    • LACU -> lago (lake)
    • FABA -> fava (broadbean)
  • Simplification of consonant clusters, especially doubled vowels, occurred:
    • GUTTA -> gota (drop)
    • PECCARE -> pecar (to sin)
  • Dissimilation - Modification of a sound by the influence of neighbouring sounds.
    • Dissimilation between vowels:
      • LOCUSTA -> lagosta (lobster)
      • CAMPANA -> campãa > campa (tomb)
    • Dissimilation between consonants:
      • MEMORARE > nembrar > lembrar (to remember)
      • ANIMA -> alma (soul)
      • LOCALE -> logar > lugar (place)
Some other alterations were semi-vowel metathesis: PRIMARIU becomes primeiro (Eng. first); consonant metathesis in [l] and [r] are rare in Portuguese (e.g. TENEBRAS > teevras > trevas, Eng. darkness); and epenthesis, where there is not a total assimilation by adding new sounds. Such as for wine: Vulgar Latin: VINO, medieval Portuguese Vi~o, Modern Portuguese (since 14th or 15th centuries): Vinho. However, the sound of medieval Portuguese is still alive in some Portuguese dialects of Brazil and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Barbarian origin words

  • Barão (baron) from Ger. baro
  • Ganhar (to win) from Ger. waidanjan
    • wirro
  • Roubar (to steal) from Ger. raubon
  • Saga (Saga) from Got. saega

Arabic origin words

Arabic loan words represents almost 10 % of the Portuguese lexicon, here are some examples:

  • Alcova (Alcove) from alkubba
  • Aldeia (village) from aldaya
  • Alface (lettuce) from alkhass
  • Algarismo (algarism, number) from alkarizmi
  • Almirante (admiral) from amir + ar-rahl
  • Almofada (cushion) from almukhadda
  • Âmbar (amber) from anbar
  • Armazém (warehouse) from almahazan
  • Arroz (rice) from arruz (loan from Greek óryza)
  • Azeite (olive oil) from azzait
  • Garrafa (bottle) from garrafâ
  • Girafa (giraffe) from zurafa
  • Jasmim (jasmin) from Persian jasamin
  • Jarra (jar) from jarra
  • Xadrez (Chess) from xatranj (loan from Sanscrit xaturanga)
  • Xerife (sheriff) from xarif

Asian, Amerindian and African origin Words

With the Portuguese discoveries a linguistic contact was made, and Portuguese language became influenced by other languages other than European or Arabic. Many placenames and local animals have Amerindian names in Brazil, in Angola and Mozambique, the same occurs with the local Bantu languages.


  • Chá (Tea), from Chinese cha
  • Jangada (raft), from Malay
  • Manga (mango), from Malay mangga
  • Abacaxi (pineapple) from Tupi ibá + cati
  • Caju (cashew)
  • Jaguar (jaguar) from Tupi-Guarani jaguara
  • Mandioca (cassava)
  • Pipoca (popcorn)
  • Tatu (armadillo) from Guarani tatu
  • Tucano (toucan) from Guarani tucan
Sub-saharan Africa:
  • Banana (banana) from Wolof
  • Farra (Wild party) from Bantu
  • Chimpanzé (chimpanzee) from Bantu

Writing system

Main article: Portuguese alphabet

Portuguese is written using the Latin alphabet with 26 letters. Three of them (K, W and Y) are only used for non-Portuguese origin words, in terms like darwinismo (Darwinism, from English "Darwin"). It uses ç and acute, grave, circumflex and tilde accents over vowels.


There is a

  • Portuguese: português
  • Hello: olá (hear it)
  • Goodbye: tchau -- "Adeus" is the standard, but it could be seem as offensive.
  • Please: por favor
  • Thank you: obrigado (for men); obrigada (for women)
  • Sorry: desculpe
  • That one: esse (masculine); essa (feminine)
  • How much?: quanto
  • English: inglês
  • yes: sim (as for English "sing")
  • no: não (as for English "now", with nazalization)
  • I don't understand: Não percebo
  • Where's the bathroom?: Onde fica o quarto de banho? - for Portugal; Onde fica o banheiro?- for Brazil
  • generic toast: tchin-tchin; À nossa (To us)
  • Do you speak English?: Fala inglês?
See also: List of tongue-twisters- Common phrases in different languages


Main articles: Portuguese literature - Camoens Prize

To English speakers, the most famous writer in the Portuguese language is the poet Luís Vaz de Camoes or Luís Vaz Camoens (1524-June 10, 1580), author of the epic poem, the Lusiad.

Several other authors and poets are also internationally known, such as: Eça de Queirós (1845 - 1900), the most famous Portuguese language novelist; Fernando Pessoa (1888 - 1935), one of the greatest poets in the language's history; Jorge Amado (1912 - 2001), a popular novelist; and José Saramago (born 1922) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.


  • [1] First and Second with first language speakers, respectively. Only counting figures from Andorra, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, China (Macao), East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, India (Goa, Daman), Luxembourg, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe (Not including Galicia and others). Considering second language speakers those people who are bilingual and use Portuguese as a second language.
  • [2] Galicia is only included as a Portuguese language territory due that is confirmed that both languages are co-dialects. The government of Galicia regards Galician as a separate language.
  • [3] A Fala is not recognized by the Spanish authorities to be a Portuguese dialect, althought there has been attempts to consider it Galician, but the locals do not want to use the Galician orthography. A Fala differs very few from the neighbouring Portuguese dialect in the other side of the border, but it will probably be recognized (if it will be) as a separate language.

External links