brazilian English common errors in English global English

That's my English: Brazinglish

© SUPERSTOCKIt’s gearing up for Carnaval in Brazil and as the world wishes it was there for the party, what better time to ask the question: What’s your English, Brazil? We’re dedicating February to Brazil English and here’s our first guest post from Jussara Simões, translator, interpreter and blogger.


Nobody can deny that English has today the role that Latin had in the days of the Roman Empire. And, just like the Romans used to do, the English language has been spreading its power around the world, and it comes in without knocking. Brazil is not a bilingual country; Portuguese is our national language, but lots of us are trying hard to learn English quickly, because it’s a requirement for good jobs.

When the English language forces its entry into a Romance language country, amazing things happen. Some of the funniest misunderstandings come from the terms known as “false friends”, i. e., words that seem to be what they are not. A few examples:

Condescending – the Portuguese cognate, “condescendente”, means exactly the opposite, but “condescendente” is what you find in bilingual dictionaries, and I wonder why.

Stupid – the Portuguese cognate, “estúpido”, means rude, discorteous, impolite; it does not mean lacking in intelligence, and the translation of stupid should be “burro” and its synonyms. I must add that the wrong translation is also found in bilingual dictionaries.

Some amusing Brazinglish terms cause lots of laughter around the world. There’s a device called “uninterruptible power supply”, or “UPS”. In Brazil our IT marketing people decided to call it “no-break” (yes, it sounds like “me Tarzan you Jane”, but that’s how English is spoken in Brazil). Many years ago, when “no-breaks” were first introduced in Brazil, I had a hard time explaining to my colleagues abroad what the heck I meant when I said I was using a “no-break”.

Brazilians are known for their improvising talent. Businesses have been replacing Portuguese with English, but the majority of our people have a hard time with those English terms, and they eventually create their own Brazinglish terms. Some examples are: “serve-serve”, a term invented by those who find it difficult to pronounce self-service; “pé de mouse” (literally “mouse foot”), instead of mouse pad: the word pad, pronounced by Brazilians, sounds like “pé de” (foot of), so it was quickly adapted and “translated” as “pé de mouse”, and I applaud Brazilians’ creativity and sense of humor.


Visit the blog for more guest posts from Brazil in February. And why not submit your own guest post? We’d be delighted to hear from you!

About the author


Jussara Simoes


  • Well done, Jussara! Really like the way you introduced the topic and used some of the tricky words we have here! Almost a parallel with the ’embromation’ stuff!

  • What a fun article, Jussara! Thank you for posting the link on trad-prt. I’ll let my translator colleagues know about it and about this blog, which is a delightful surprise.

  • Great job, Jussara! What I love most about Brazilian adaptations is the termn “outdoor” which is Brazilian for billboard. Mind you, I have heard some very knowledgeable people using the term “outdoor” in a conversation in English and could not understand why others would not understand what they meant. Now, when ad firms started using the back windows of buses to promote their client’s products, they created yet another amazing term: “busdoor,” namely an “outdoor” on a bus… Sweet, eh? =)

  • That´s very interesting! Brazilian people are smart indeed. very creative! “outdoor”, “outbus”, “no-break”, good examples of how we can come up with nice ideas for something we may not know. Never heard of “pé de mouse”, but it doesn´t mean you´re wrong. It´s just here or around Brazil, I´ve never seen someone saying that.


  • Hi there! Awesome article! That’s so true. Another misunderstanded word is Actual, which people wrongly think it means “atual” in portuguese. But actually (rs) it means “real” and actually means “na verdade”. So, in order to say “atual”people should use the word Current. I have been living in Australia for over 2 years. Xx

  • Houauiss:

    “4) Uso: pejorativo. Que tenta acentuar uma superioridade sua (real ou não), tratando de maneira paternalista outra pessoa; desdenhoso, arrogante.”

    Same meaning in my book…. 😉 And I always used with that meaning.

  • I’d appreciate if Mr. Ricardo could bring us a few literary or otherwise published examples of this usage. As I pointed out above, bilingual dictionaries are unreliable, and, unfortunately, Brazilian Portuguese dictionaries in their recent versions are mere literal translations of English dictionaries. The dictionary authors don’t do their homework before fabricating new meanings for words. The same dictionary you mention gives us “exigente, intransigente; ver tb. sinonímia de malvado” as an ANTONYM for condescendente.

    I’ve also searched the Portuguese Corpus on the web (, which has 45 million words, and it found 78 occurrences of the word “condescendente”, with the meaning you found on Houaiss. That’s why I’d be very grateful if you could bring us some quotations from renowned Brazilian or Portuguese authors, with that word being used with the meaning you indicated here.

    And thanks for reading.

  • I made a mistake in my comment above. Where I wrote “… it found 78 occurrences of the word “condescendente”, with the meaning you found on Houaiss”, please read “it found 78 occurrences of the word “condescendente”, not one of them with the meaning you found on Houaiss”.

    I apologize for this.

  • Well, I think the language study an amazing experience! And read all this stuff is really interesting, we brazilian have a creative away of giving means in some words that sometimes sounds strange when we try to explain to a native english speaker. I was surprise today when I open my emailbox and saw the brazilian flag…very nice!

  • Lovely article and comments!
    Amanda! I´m an English teacher in Argentina and I do agree with you! The English word “actual” is also misunderstood and used as a synonym for “actual” in Spanish which to make matters worse is written in exactly the same way!

  • These false-friends are really funny but sometimes they lead you to embarrassing situtions when you are in front of teen-ager students. For example I always find myself in such situation when I have to teach the word” excited”, or when they casually get trough that word on their textbooks. Immediatly they start laughing because they relate this transparent expression to the word “exitado”(a sexual term) in Spanish, meaning “hot” in English. The real translation of this unfortunate word is “entusiasmado” in Sapnish. After so many years of being a Secondary School teacher I explain the meaning of this word before hand. (I´m an Argentine teacher and a Portuguese student)

  • As a British native in Brazil I too have come up against some of the false friends and embarrassing situations but I have also coined a term of my own. In Portuguese bicycling is andando de bicicleta which I call bicicletando, which although I can refer to it has nothing to do with me as I can´t ride a bike! One of my favourite Brazinglish terms is Brazuka when referring to Brazil. How did this term come about……I believe it was when somebody was typing Brazil and their fingers moved over one space so that they hit the u instead of the i and the k instead of the l. Brazuka is a great country to live in and I should know I´ve been here 27 years.

  • The word “condescendente” is mainly used as a synonym for “tolerant”, but the pejorative meaning, mentioned above, is also acknowledged in the portuguese language. One curious “false friend” is the word “exquisite”, which means to be beautiful, stunning, etc., and its brazilian “counterpart”, the word “esquisito”, which means to be strange, eccentric, etc..

    obs.: Sorry for any english mistakes I may have done in my post. XD

  • You can also find similarities among different languages, but there´s one similarity between English and Portuguese that really called my attention in one of my Portuguese class, which is the case of the idiom “to learn/know sth by heart”( meaning”to memorize”), Don´t you have a similar expression in Portuguese?

  • Ruth,

    To learn by heart = decorar
    To know by heart = de cor

    From the Latin “cor, cordis” = heart

    There’s not a morphological similarity, but, as you can see, they have the same origin (heart).

  • Alexandre M,

    As I said before, I’d appreciate if you could bring me a couple of literary examples of “condescendente” used with the English meaning. I have never seen it used with any other sense besides “tolerant”. But I am looking forward to seeing it used as “patronizing” in Portuguese, not in a bad translation, but in a text originally written in Portuguese.

    Thanks for reading!

  • I’ve already said all I had to say about the sloppy Brazilian dictionaries. Do you think it’s alright to fabricate meanings and publish on dictionaries “just because”?
    I keep on waiting for literary examples.
    But you can always behave like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and say that words mean whatever you want them to mean. 😉

  • @Jussara Simões

    I’m sorry Jussara, but to say that dictionaries like Caldas Aulete and Houaiss are sloppy is a little over the top.

  • Dear Alexandre,

    This is Aulete’s original entry:

    adj. || que usa de condescendência; que denota condescendência: Recuara diante das pretensões dela o caráter bondoso e condescendente do cavalheiresco D. Afonso V. (Arnaldo Gama, Filho do Baldaia, c. 20, p. 502, ed. 1886.) F. lat. Condescendens.

    The real Aulete is a reliable dictionary. The “update” job some people have been doing on it is sloppy and has no quotations.

    If you still insist, please, bring me a couple of quotations from reliable sources and I will apologize for being wrong. Wrong translations and fabricated entries cannot be used as authoritative reference. So I insist: please, bring me quotations of Brazilian reliable authors.

    One excellent and recent dictionary is also “Dicionário de Usos do Português do Brasil”, by Francisco S. Borba, Editora Ática, and it does not have “condescendente” with the meaning you want it to have.

    Thanks in advance. There will be no more replies about “condescendente” before somebody brings some quotations originally in Portuguese.

    P.S.: I wish Brazilians loved our Portuguese language as much as they love English. A good command of our mother tongue (and this goes for anyone’s mother tongue) is a “sine qua non” requisite to having a good command of any other language.

  • Hi Jussara and everyone else, I’m an English student and I appreciate macmillandictionary and blog a lot. I just felt honoured for Brazilians are around contributing for this website.

    Yeah, we Brazilians are creativy people but we can’t forget to study hard to speak as close as native speakers. I think English has become what Esperanto couldn’t.

    Great article. Thanks Macmillan for the opportunity.

  • Eduardo,

    Tks for the comment, but native from where? New Zealand? Nigeria? India? UK? US? Australia? Guiana? Falkland Islands? Or somewhere else (English is spoken in so many countries)? Each one of these places have their own “flavours” (or “flavors”) of English. Which one do you prefer?

  • Thanks for this wonderful blog and discussion. I think my favourite Brazenglish term is ‘x-burger’ – the letter ‘x’ being pronounced ‘sheez’ in Portuguese.

    When I was working in Sao Paulo, I wrote a little article for New Routes magazine #15 including a false friends domino game. I wonder if it’s still available? You might need to be a subscriber to the publisher DISAL perhaps.

    By the way, some of the Portuguese words that always tripped me up were the ‘guarda-‘ words – which quite frequently saw me asking for a wardrobe when it was raining ….

    cheers from faraway New Zealand,


  • On the IT realm, these two freak me out every time: data show (for multimedia projector, which should be simply translated into its cognate projetor) and underline (instead of underscore, the _ character). So many tech support representatives have argued bravely that I was wrong when I pointed out the underscore deal that I gave up on using the English term altogether in favor of the unquestionable traço embaixo (something like lower dash).

    And then we have people who still say a hard disk (disco rígido in Portuguese) is a winchester, mistakenly call a computer case the CPU, pronounce default as “defuh”… IT is sure a no-man’s land when it comes to misusing English words!

    One interesting, if controversial, case, though, is the neologism deletar after the verb delete, just as plugar from plug: Although the verbs do not originally exist in Portuguese, their meanings became so widely used and understood that one often doesn’t realize they do not belong to the Brazilian lexicon. Which only goes to show the dynamic nature of spoken language, and that change is an inevitable process, regardless of what the most linguistically-puritan people have to say. Houaiss dictionary already lists both verbs, tracing their entrance into Portuguese to the 70’s, but only points out that plugar should be avoided since there are other equivalents in the language, as if apagar or suprimir didn’t take care of that meaning just as well.

  • I do loved this post. In Bahia we have some embromations too like Rebolation [A new kind of music] and something at my english course we use to say things like: Are you “taking a wave”? It means that the person is not talking in a serious way or joking in a bad way with someone.

Leave a Comment