European Portuguese Versus Brazilian Portuguese

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in the early sixteenth century, they found many speakers of different Native American languages already living there. It has been estimated that there were more than 1,000 indigenous languages spoken in Brazil at the time of the Portuguese arrival. With the advancement of white populations into the coastal areas of Brazil, these populations were slowly decimated by disease or genocide, so that nowadays we are left with about 170 different Native Brazilian languages in Brazil.

The development of Brazilian Portuguese is a complex one, but one that is fascinating nonetheless. Portuguese colonization in Brazil really started in 1548 with the introduction of a system of capitanias or territories awarded to Portuguese officials on a hereditary basis. Most of these territories failed economically, except for São Vicente (today's São Paulo state) and Pernambuco. Later, there was a system of governorships that responded directly to the King of Portugal. With the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon, the Portuguese Royal family transferred to Rio de Janeiro. This transatlantic move had a significant impact on the Portuguese educational policy in Brazil, especially with regard to the development of language instruction.

The path followed by Brazil since it became independent in 1822 was very different from that followed by other Portuguese colonies such as Angola and Mozambique. In these countries, the Portuguese-speaking community is a learned minority. In Brazil, Portuguese has been spoken by many generations of Brazilians, given it a distinctly Brazilian flavor. Also, one has to account for linguistic contact with the Brazilian indigenous population, whose languages, including Tupi Guarani and others, also contributed words to the Brazilian dialect.

In 2002, the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, a municipality in the state of Amazonas, passed a law making the indigenous languages Nheengatu, Tukano, and Boniwa official languages along with Portuguese.

In addition, one cannot forget the influence of millions of black Africans who were forcibly brought to Brazil to work in the sugarcane fields, gold mines, and the homes of Portuguese masters. These Bantu and Kwa language speakers offered a unique twist to the way Portuguese is spoken in Brazil.


Words of Indigenous Origin in Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese


plants abacaxi



cashew fruit

animals piranha






place names Guanabara



personal names Araci


supernatural beings Tupã

supreme being of the Tupi people


human-like creature whose feet are backwards; brings bad luck or death to those who see him

Not all scholars agree with the extent to which or even the very idea that African languages influenced Brazilian Portuguese. Some think that these languages simply added to the richness of vocabulary, while others think that the influence can be felt to the core of the language. For these scholars, Brazilian Portuguese might have changed so much, it could even be considered a semi-creole! The jury is still out on this issue, but the fact remains that Brazilian Portuguese has characteristics that clearly show that it evolved differently from European Portuguese in significant ways.


<tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" align="left" rowsep="1" colsep="0"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" align="left" rowsep="1" colsep="0"/> <thead> <tr> <td><p>Brazilian Portuguese</p></td> <td><p>English</p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>senzala</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>slave quarters</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>caçula</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>youngest offspring</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>moleque</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>young boy; pejorative</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>mucama</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>young slave girl who fetches things</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>quilombo</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>village of marooned slaves</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>tanga</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>very short bikini or loincloth</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>berimbau</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>one-stringed African instrument</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <!--/gc--> <div id="pagination"><ul><li class="prev"><a href="" title="Similarities to Spanish">Similarities to Spanish</a></li><li class="next"><a href="" title="Tips on Learning Portuguese">Tips on Learning Portuguese</a> </li></ul></div></div> <div id="coda"> <div id="rel"><div class="n5">Related Articles</div><ul> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> European Portuguese Versus Brazilian Portuguese - Brazilian Portuguese </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Introduction to Brazilian Portuguese </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> - Review of </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Portugal - Historical Setting - Development of Brazil </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> The Beginning - Sign Language </a></li> </ul></div> <div id="sec"><div class="n5">Read More Introducing the Portuguese Language</div><ul><ul class="col1"><li ><a href="">Why Learn Portuguese?</a></li> <li ><a href="">Portuguese: A Romance Language</a></li> <li ><a href="">Similarities to Spanish</a></li> </ul><ul class="col2"><li class="btO">European Portuguese Versus Brazilian Portuguese</li> <li ><a href="">Tips on Learning Portuguese</a></li> <li ><a href="">Recognizing What You Already Know</a></li> </ul></ul></div> </div> <script>if(zSbL<1)zSbL=3;zSB(2);zSbL=0</script> </div> <div id="widgets"><script type="text/javascript">if(z336>0){w('<div id="adB">'+ap[0]+at[4]+as[0]);adunit('','','',ch,gs,300,250,'1','bb',3);w('</div>')}if(z155>0){w('<div id="adP">'+ap[0]+at[4]+as[0]);adunit('','','',ch,gs,336,155,'1','ps',4);w('</div>')}</script> <div id="pg" class="pane"><div class="n3">Shopping</div><div class="cntnr"><a href=" "><img src=""></a><h4><a href=" ">THE EVERYTHING LEARNING BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE BOOK</a></h4><p><a href=" ">By Fernanda L. Ferreira, Ph.D.</a></p><div id="fp"><a href=" ">Buy This Book</a></div></div></div> <div id="toc" class="pane"><div class="n3">Brazilian Portuguese Sections</div><ul><li><a href="">Introducing the Portuguese Language</a></li> <li><a href="">The Sounds of Portuguese</a></li> <li><a href="">Beginning Conversation</a></li> <li><a href="">Nouns, Articles, and Contractions</a></li> <li><a href="">Who Are You? Introducing Ser</a></li> <li><a href="">How Are You? Introducing Estar</a></li> <li><a href="">Describing People and Things in Portuguese</a></li> <li><a href="">The Vocabulary of Numbers</a></li> <li><a href="">First Conjugation Verbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Second Conjugation and Beyond</a></li> <li><a href="">Important Verbs to Know</a></li> <li><a href="">Verb Tenses: an Overview</a></li> <li><a href="">More Verbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Negative Words and Constructions</a></li> <li><a href="">Questions and Exclamations</a></li> <li><a href="">The Future and Other Tenses</a></li> <li><a href="">Imperative and Subjunctive Constructions</a></li> <li><a href="">Carnaval, Samba, Feijoada, and Futebol</a></li> <li><a href="">Means of Communication</a></li> <li><a href="">Traveling to Samba-Land</a></li> <li><a href="">English-to-Portuguese Glossary</a></li> <li><a href="">Portuguese-to-English Glossary</a></li> <li><a href="">Exercise Answer Key</a></li> </ul></div></div> <script type="text/javascript">zCi();validateForms();</script> <div id="abf" style="padding-right:0"><ol class="crumbtrail"><li class="home"><a href="">Home</a></li><li><a href="">Brazilian Portuguese</a></li><li><a href="">Introducing the Portuguese Language</a></li><li>European Portuguese Versus Brazilian Portuguese</li></ol></div> <div id="aboutinfo" class="hlist"><div id="morefrom"><h6>Visit other sites:</h6><ul><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Calorie Count</a></li><li class="last"><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></li></ul></div> <ul id="siteinfo"><li><a href="">SiteMap</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Help</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Privacy Policy</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Your Ad Choices</a></li><li class="last"><a href="" rel="nofollow">Contact Us</a></li></ul> <ul id="companyinfo"><li class="last"><a href=" " rel="nofollow">Buy Books</a></li></ul><div id="disclaimer"> </div></div></div> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- zPxA[zPxC]=new Image();zPxA[zPxC++].src=""; adclose() //--> </script> <script type="text/javascript">(function(){var po=document.createElement('script');po.type='text/javascript';po.async=true;po.src='';var s=document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(po,s)})();</script> </body></html>