- Caramba, que calor! Vamos pegar o busão para a praia?
- Meu irmão disse que também quer ir, se a gente for ele vai ficar com dor de cotovelo.
- Melhor irmos jogar futebol!
- Pode tirar o cavalo da chuva, nesse calor eu não vou!
- Verdade, deixa pra lá então! Melhor ficar em casa mesmo.
Do you study Portuguese but didn’t understand the conversation above? This is because it was full of Brazilian slang words and expressions! Slang words are a really important part of the Brazilian Portuguese language. There are hundreds of different slang words created perhaps for the fact that we want to differentiate ourselves from original Portuguese. So in order to talk with a Brazilian native speaker, you’ll need to become aware of at least the most popular slang words.
We all know that all cultures have their own expressions. Expressions are sets of two or more words that are not possible to identify their meaning through the literal sense of the term that constitute the expression. A slang is a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, and they are more common in speech than in writing.
The knowledge of expressions is really important because they are part of our culture and whoever you to talk to in Brazil will use certain expressions. I personally saw many foreign students struggling to have a conversation in Portuguese because they didn’t know how to interpret some of our expressions, so here are some examples of slang words and expressions that you need to know when you come to visit our beautiful country.
If you studied Portuguese you will remember that ‘’demorou’’ means ‘’delay’’, when someone took a long time to do something. But when ‘’demorou’’ is used by itself and not inside a sentence, then the meaning is totally different. This slang means confirmation, it means the same as ‘’of course’’ or it can be also used when you are asking for confirmation, like the word ‘’alright’’. For example:
- ‘’Eu vou pedir uma pizza, demorou?’’. (‘’I’m about to order a pizza, alright?).
- ‘’Demorou! Pede uma de calabresa para mim!’’. (“Alright! Order a pepperoni one for me!’’).
2. ‘’A gente’’
Most Portuguese learners, including us in Brazil learned that ‘’Nós’’ is the proper way to say ‘’we”, but the truth is that most of the people here don’t use this word very often. Instead we use “A gente”, which is also correct according to the Portuguese language. Even if both words mean the same thing, there is an important difference between them whenever we want to create a complete sentence.
With ‘’nós’’, the verb needs to be conjugated in the first-person plural, for example:
- Nós andamos na praia. (We walk on the beach).
Whereas, by using ‘’a gente’,’ the verb remains conjugated in the third-person singular, for example:
- A gente anda na praia. (We walk at the beach).
- A gente ama cantar no chuveiro. (We love to sing in the shower).
3. ‘’Deixa pra lá’’
If you try to translate this expression word by word it will come out something like ‘’let in there’’ or ‘’leave in the side’’ but its real meaning can be translated with the English expression ‘’Never mind’’. So when someone does not want to talk about something or they want you to forget about doing something they will just tell you that. It is an expression used in the entire country and by people from all the ages, so don’t be surprised if a lady tell you a “deixa pra lá’’ whenever you ask her about something that she doesn’t want to talk about. For instance:
- O que você me perguntou mesmo? (What did you ask me by the way?).
- Deixa pra lá. (Never mind).
Caramba is a common word used for expressing a positive or negative reaction to an event in many countries -- and not just in Brazil. It's used mainly by people from Latin America and its meaning is something close to ‘’Oh my God” or ‘’Wow”. This expression can also be used to demonstrate exaggeration or quantity whenever we say “pra caramba”. Here are some examples of both terms:
- Caramba! Já são 3 horas da manhã. (Wow! It’s already 3AM).
- Caramba, ela nunca me responde! (Oh my God, she never answers me!).
- Hoje eu estou com fome pra caramba! (Today I am very hungry!).
- Tem gente pra caramba neste barco! (There are a lot of people on this boat!).
Yes, many people use “busão” to say “ônibus” (bus), especially if you go visit the state of Minas Gerais. So if you ever need to ask about what time the bus is coming, don’t be surprised if someone says that the ‘’busão’’ is arriving at 10AM! For example:
- Pega o busão, pare na Praça da Sé e você já está do lado da estação de metrô. É muito simples!
- (Take the bus, stop at Praça da Sé and you’re right next to the subway. It’s very simple!).
6. “Dor de cotovelo’’
Don’t try to translate this expression on any translation app because you will only get the literal meaning of this expression which is ‘’elbow pain’’, and I honestly never heard in my life someone complaining about elbow pain. The true meaning of this expression is that someone is feeling jealous about something. So if someone says that you have ‘’dor de cotovelo’’ is because they think you are jealous about something and not because your elbows are swollen or something. Here it goes an example of this expression being used:
- Acho que meu irmão está com dor de cotovelo porque ele não ganhou nenhum presente de Natal. (I think my brother is jealous because he didn’t receive any Christmas gift).
- Se você for viajar eu vou ficar com muita dor de cotovelo. (If you go on a trip, then I will be so jealous!).
7. ‘’Tirar o cavalinho da chuva’’
This last expression also does not make sense if you try to translate it word by word, unless you are trying to ‘’take your little horse out of the rain’ -- which is probably not the case. This expression is used when someone is trying to tell you or someone else that you should give up about an idea because it won’t happen, or there is no possibility to make it work.
The closest expression in English would be ‘’don’t hold your breath”, which is also used when we want someone to give up about something. For example:
- Pode tirar o cavalinho da chuva, eu não vou lá com você. (Don’t hold your breath, I’m not going there with you)
- Está muito tarde, você não vai lá fora jogar futebol! Pode tirar o seu cavalinho da chuva. (It’s too late, you are not going outside to play soccer! There is no chance of this happening).
These are some of the important slang words that are used daily in Brazil and I feel that it was very important to share them with you. It doesn’t matter how many language classroom books you read, they still won’t prepare you enough for the real world. So hopefully now you will be able to understand the conversation at the top of the article and improve your Portuguese vocabulary as well!
Don’t forget to keep yourself updated! Feel free to comment and ask questions. See you soon!
Hero image by Felipe Luiz on Unsplash