Portuguese Slang Expressions to Sound More Natural and Native-Like
If we could teleport you to Rio de Janeiro right now, would you be able to get by? Or would you be afraid of getting lost in translation?
Well, we may not be able to take you to Rio (or to Lisbon, São Paulo, or Mozambique…) but we can help you nail Portuguese slang!
These are informal expressions that Portuguese speakers use in everyday conversation. As you won’t find many of them in traditional textbooks, we thought it was a good idea to make a nice list of colloquial phrases for those who want to travel to Brazil or Portugal, whether for tourism, business, or family reasons.
Understanding these expressions will help you know what’s going on around you. And if you’re courageous enough to try to speak Portuguese and use these phrases, you will sound much more natural, much cooler and will impress your Brazilian and Portuguese family, friends, and colleagues.
So, without further ado, let’s see the most important Portuguese slang phrases!
Beleza means “beauty” in Portuguese, but it’s also how Brazilian people say “Hello” in informal contexts. It’s also a good way of saying “deal” or “sweet” when you want to say that something is a great idea.
Legal means exactly what it looks like it means. It comes from “legality.” But it’s also the most common way to say “cool” in Brazilian Portuguese.
If obrigado is the equivalent to “thank you,” valeu is more like “thanks.” They’re synonyms, but the latter is slightly more informal. Unlike obrigado, valeu has a number of additional meanings. It is also used to mean “OK,” “right,” or “bye.” Confused? Don’t worry. As usual, the context should help you. Valeu?
When said to a beautiful woman, gatinha (kitty) means something like babe or sexy girl. Saying “como vai, gatinha?” is like saying “what’s up, babe?” Just make sure you don’t use that phrase with a random stranger from the street.
Bacana is used in the same contexts we would say “awesome,” “super,” “great,” or “amazing.” You got tickets to see attend Lollapalooza in São Paulo? Bacana! Did you get a great tan in Recife? Bacana!
Very often, what gives away a language learner is the level of formality in their speaking. For example, a beginner learner of English might say “How are you?” in every context instead of using “How’s it going?” or “What’s up?” If you want to greet your Portuguese-speaking friends in an informal way, you can use “E aí?” instead of the more formal “Como vai?”
In Brazilian Portuguese, isso is used to confirm or agree with something.
“Vamos para a praia hoje, certo?” (We are going to the beach today, right?)
Literally meaning “pigeon,” Rola is used to refer to male genitalia. It is also used to insult people, as when we say that someone is a d**k.
Piranha is used to refer to a girl who has promiscuous behavior. Though it’s not safe to use this one at all, we have to admit that it’s a hilarious metaphor.
Xana is a Portuguese slang word used to refer to a girl’s genitalia. Though it’s important you know it in case someone else says it, we recommend that you don’t use it or you might get a well-deserved slap.
Expressions like “totally,” or “like,” or “you know” are called gap fillers because they help us make transitions between different elements in a sentence and give us time to think. Therefore, they’re used, like, literally all the time, you know? Pá, together with viu, sabe, and tipo, is the most popular filler word in Portuguese.
Short for meu irmão, which means “my brother,” this Portuguese slang expression is a perfect equivalent for the popular English slang word “bro.”
Sounding very similar to “fish,” this word means “cool” or “great.” You will hear that mostly young people use this word in all types of context. For example, “Esse bar é bué fixe” (That bar is so cool).
Though this word came into the Portuguese language from French, rumor has it that it acquired the meaning of “cool” from English. According to the story, everything started in the early 20th century, when British tourists visiting the Algarve would go to restaurants and order fish. Their delight while eating their food was so great that the word fixe (which sounds very similar to “fish”) became a synonym for cool.
Beer is the third most popular drink in Portugal after coffee and wine. Depending on where you are, there are different ways to order a beer, and it all comes down to the size of the glass. In Lisbon, for example, it’s very common to order an imperial (a 20cl beer served in a conical or cylindrical glass). In Porto, on the other hand, no one will serve you a fresh 20cl beer until you ask for a fino.
Gajo and Gaja are slang words that can take on a pejorative connotation depending on the context. Gajo means guy, or dude, while gaja means chick. Though these Portuguese slang terms are not inherently negative, your tone of voice or the other words you use can easily turn this Portuguese slang term into an insult. Other alternatives for gajo/a are tipo or tipa.
Gira and giro both mean pretty, cute, or attractive. If you’re talking about a girl or a woman, you can say Ela é gira (she’s pretty). If you’re talking about a boy or a man, you can say Ele é giro (he’s handsome).
Porreiro is a Portuguese slang word used to say that someone is awesome or cool.
“Esse é o cara que vimos no show do Mariza, certo? Ele é tão porreiro.”
“That’s the guy we saw at the Mariza concert, right? He’s so cool.”
When you want to insult someone, there’s nothing like a good old SOB. But if you don’t want your insult to sound so strong in Portuguese, you can replace the B word (or its Portuguese equivalent) with mãe (mother). There is a historical reason for this. In the past, children born outside of marriage were not allowed to inherit a family’s wealth. Hence, calling someone a son of a mother is a way of diminishing their status or their worth.
Also known as “screw you”, “damn”, “up yours”, “F-off”, etc., this is the right Portuguese slang expression to use if you’re mad. You can use it whether you’re angry at someone else or just hit your little toe with your bed.
This slang expression dates back to the Middle Ages. You use it when you want to force someone to do a job no one wants to do. If you ask us, combing cute animals for a living is not the worst choice in the world, but it seems Portuguese people disagree.
The word “thong” is one of the most potentially problematic words you’ll ever come across. In Australian English, for example, this word means sandals (Imagine a conversation about a thong being too tight!). In Portuguese, on the other hand, people use this word as part of an expression that people use when someone is messing with them and which can be translated as “you’re kidding, right?”
Luckily, this slang expression has nothing to do with angry parents and green beans. In fact, its origin is a mystery. Eating, in this phrase, has to do with doing what is expected of you. Saying “estás aqui estás a comer” is like saying “if you don’t behave, I’ll slap you”. So, yeah, it could be said by angry parents after all.
Would you like to practice these tricky Portuguese expressions in a safe environment? Contact us now and we’ll pair you up with a native Portuguese teacher who’ll be delighted to teach you all the slang you want to know and explain to you when and how to use it! Sign up for a free trial class now and take your Portuguese to the next level.