Portuguese vocabulary

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Most of the Portuguese vocabulary comes from Latin, since Portuguese is a Romance language. However, other languages that came into contact with it have also left their mark. In the thirteenth century, the lexicon of Portuguese had about 80% words of Latin origin and 20% of pre-Roman, Celtic, Germanic and Arabic origin.[1]

Pre-Roman languages of Iberia[edit]

Very few traces of the languages of the native peoples of western Iberia (Celtici, Lusitanians, Conii, or Gallaeci), or of pre-Roman settlers like the Phoenicians or Carthaginians who settled in eastern Iberia, persist in the language, but there are some exceptions (most are unconfirmed). Many places in Portugal have pre-Roman names, such as the cities of Braga and Coimbra and the rivers Minho and Tâmega.


From Iberian:

  • abóbora "pumpkin"
  • arroio "brook, stream"
  • baía "bay" (cf. Basque ibai 'river')
  • balsa "ferry"
  • barranco "ravine"
  • barro "mud; clay"
  • bezerro "1 year-old calf"
  • bizarro "quaint, bizarre"
  • cama "bed" (Vulgar Latin: cama)
  • carrasco "executioner"
  • cavaco "small woods"
  • esquerdo "left" (cf. Basque ezker 'left')
  • lousa "slate"
  • manteiga "butter"
  • mata, mato "woods"
  • morro "hill"
  • mouta, moita "bush"
  • sapo "toad"
  • sarna "scabbies"
  • seara "crops"
  • tojo "gorse"
  • várzea "meadow"
  • veiga "meadow, grassland"


Continental Celtic languages were also spoken in the peninsula, before the arrival of Latin.[2]

  • bico "beak, bill" (Latin: biccus)
  • brio "pride, courage"
  • bruxa "witch"
  • cabana "hut" (Latin: capanna)
  • camba from célt *kambos
  • canga "yoke"
  • carro "car, cart" (Latin: carrus)
  • carvalho "oak"
  • cerveja "beer" (Latin: cerevisia)
  • légua "league (unit)"
  • peça "piece"
  • penedo "cliff"
  • picar "to prick"
  • tranca "latch"

Germanic languages[edit]

The Germanic influence (Buri, Suebi, Visigoth, Vandal) in Portuguese was small, restricted to warfare and related topics. The influence also exists in placenames such has Ermesinde and Esposende, where sinde and sende are derived from the Germanic "sinths" (military expedition). Toponym and toponymic surname Resende comes from "reths sinths", path to the council, the expedition's council.

  • Barão (baron) from Germanic baro[3]
  • Branco from Germanic blank[3]
  • Broa "loaf" from Germanic brauþam
  • Camisa "shirt" (Fr.: chemise Latin: camisia < Celt < PGmc *khamiþjō, cf OHG hemidi, Germ Hemd "shirt")
  • Ganhar (to gain) from Germanic waidanjan[3]
  • Guerra (war) from Gothic wirro[3]
  • Roubar (to rob) from Germanic raubon[3]
  • Aleive (treason) from Gothic lavjan[3]
  • Alvergue/Albergue from Gothic haribergo[3]
  • Elmo from Gothic hilms[3]
  • Espora (spur) from Gothic spaúra[3]
  • Estaca (stake) from Gothic stakka[3]
  • Escanção from Gothic skankja[3]
  • Fona from Gothic fon[3]
  • Fornir from Gothic frumjan[3]
  • Godo/Gótico from Gothic guthans[3]
  • Guarda/Guardião/Guardar/ Aguardar from Germanic wardaz, Visigothic wardjan Gothic wer[3]
  • Guia from Gothic wida[3]
  • Lasca from Gothic laska[3]
  • Orgulho from Germanic urgōli
  • Marta from Gothic marthus[3]
  • Roca from Gothic ruka[3]
  • Tampa from Gothic tappa[3]
  • Triscar from Gothic thriskan[3]
  • Tascar from Gothic taskon[3]
  • Trégua from Gothic trigivo[3]
  • Aringa from Gothic hrings[3]
  • Banco from Gothic banka[3]
  • Ufa from Gothic ufjo'[3]


Projections indicate 1000 Arabic loan words. Today this proportion has decreased as the language became richer, some words fell into disuse and newer borrowings from Greek, Latin and other languages entered the vocabulary.

  • Alcova (alcove) from alkubba ( الكبة )
  • Aldeia (village) from aldaya ( الدية )
  • Alface (lettuce) from alkhass ( الخس )
  • Algarismo (number, figure) from alkarizmi ( الكرزم )
  • Algema (handcuff) from alzhaimar (bracelet) (سوار)
  • Almirante (admiral) from amir + ar-rahl ( امير الرّال )
  • Almofada (cushion) from almukhadda ( المخدّة )
  • Âmbar (amber) from anbar ( انبر )
  • Armazém (warehouse; a cognate of English "magazine") from almahazan ( المحزا )
  • Arroz (rice) from arruz (loan from Greek óryza) ( الروز )
  • Açúcar (sugar) from "as-sukkar" ( السكّر )
  • Azeite (olive oil) from azzait ( الزّيت )
  • Fátima (woman's name, and name of a town in Portugal) from Fāṭimah ( فاطمة )
  • Garrafa (bottle) from garrafā (cognate of English "caraffe") ( الغرّافة )
  • Girafa (giraffe) from zurafa ( الزرفة )
  • Jasmim (jasmine) from yasmin (loan from Persian jasamin) ( يسمن )
  • Jarra (vase) from jarra ( الجارة )

The Mozambican currency Metical was derived from the word mitqāl ( مطقال ), an Arabic unit of weight. The name Mozambique itself is an Arabic name, from sultan Muça Alebique (Musa Alibiki).

Influences from outside Europe[edit]

With the Portuguese discoveries linguistic contact was made, and the Portuguese language became influenced by other languages with which it came into contact outside Europe. In Brazil, many placenames and local animals have Amerindian names, the same occurring with the local Bantu languages in Angola and Mozambique.


  • Banana (banana) from Wolof
  • Babá (babysitter), a name developed by the slaves to wet-nurses
  • Bungular (to dance like African wizards) from Kimbundu kubungula
  • Cachimbo (smoking pipe) from Kimbundu
  • Careca (bald) from Kimbundu
  • Cabiri (small domestic animal) from Kimbundu kabiribiri
  • Cafuné (caress on the head) from Kimbundu kifumate
  • Capoeira (Brazilian martial art) from Kikongo kipura (cf. Port. & Lat. cap)
  • Marimba (musical instrument) from Bantu marimba/malimba
  • Missanga (glass beads for threading) from Kimbundu

The country name "Angola" is from a Bantu word, N'gola.


  • Ananás (pineapple) from Tupi–Guarani naná
  • Abacaxi (pineapple) from Tupi ibá + cati
  • Jaguar (jaguar) from Tupi–Guarani jaguara
  • Tatu (armadillo) from Guarani tatu
  • Tucano (toucan) from Guarani tucan


  • Bengala reduced form of «cana de Bengala»; Bengala is a golf on the eastern coast of India.
  • Biombo (screen with multiple panels to divide a room) from the Japanese Beôbu
  • Canja from malaiala (language of Malabar – Índia) through concani or concanim (Goese).
  • Chá (Tea), from Chinese cha
  • Corja (rabble) from Malay kórchchu
  • Leque abbreviated form of "abano léquio", where léquio means "related to Léquias islands, south of Japan".
  • Ramarrão, ramerrão or rame-rame (monotonous sound), from Hindi ráma-ráma
  • Manga (mango), from Malay mangga
  • Catana (cutlass) from Japanese katana

The country name Macau is from Chinese A-mok, name of the city's temple.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]