7 Illuminating New Portuguese Words with Untranslatable Meanings

7 Illuminating New Portuguese Words with Untranslatable Meanings



Portuguese is one of the most melodic and enchanting languages we have. The seventh most spoken language in the world, Portuguese stretches its influence way beyond the country of Portugal as the most-spoken language – with variations – in Brazil, parts of India, Macau and several African nations.


Portuguese is a romance language, closely related to Spanish and French and is notoriously easy on the ear. When it comes to translating other languages into English there is always ambiguity, a little something is always lost, but with some words there is no just no equivalent.


Read on for 7 illuminating new Portuguese words with untranslatable meanings.


Most of us probably feel like desenrascanҫo pretty much sums up our entire lifestyle as we lurch miraculously from one near-disaster to another. If it works, it works!

Family legend has it that when my grandad died suddenly in his forties my grandma’s hair went grey overnight. That’s an extreme example of mágoa, a heart-break that changes your very appearance.

To call someone a malandro in Portuguese is not necessarily a direct insult. The only equivalent I can think of in English is the British colloquial ‘chancer’, as in, ‘look at that chancer, trying to get a free cup of coffee by flirting with the waitress.’

Used to describe the period of time between liking someone and being head over heels in love with someone, ‘apaixonar’ is essentially the act of falling in love and it can take years or just one moment.

While there are tons of adjectives in the English language that can be used as a synonym for ‘beautiful’ there is no equivalent for ‘lindeza’ which is a noun and so literally means ‘the prettiness’ or ‘the beauty’. It is the ultimate compliment.

Calorento is a way of describing someone who doesn’t fare too well in the summertime when the temperature is high. I’m not sure whether it’s a purely descriptive term or it’s a bit of an insult. Either way we don’t have an English equivalent but to be fair we don’t need one in Britain or the most northern parts of North America where it’s freezing all the time anyway.

Everybody’s favorite untranslatable word, saudade’s closest equivalent is ‘longing’ but it’s a particularly weighty, nostalgic longing that only the Portuguese can adequately express in one word.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


Leave a Reply