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Beautiful languages | © ollis_picture / Pixabay

16 Beautiful Portuguese Words and Phrases We Need in English

Picture of Nina Santos
Nina Santos
Updated: 22 May 2017

Expressive and poetic, the Portuguese language is charming and full of words and phrases that hold a tremendous amount of feeling and symbolism. There are also words that can be used to relay various messages, and there is no arguing that it fits well as a romance language. Here are a few of the most beautiful expressions and words in Portuguese that simply cannot be translated completely into English.

Saudade

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful words in the world, saudade symbolizes a mixture of a few emotions: longing, melancholy, incompleteness, and love. The word holds a lot of weight, and saudade can apply to a person, place, or another time.

I feel saudades for Lisboa.

Apaixonar

Apaixonar signifies the action of falling in love and the feeling of falling in love. It’s like saying, “I’m in that place of falling in love.”

Gostosa

The literal translation is “delicious,” but gostosa can mean “super attractive.” To call a woman gostosa is saying that she is sexy or hot.

Desabafar

Every once in a while, people need to vent or let off steam. In Portuguese, the word desabafar is used to express a need to talk about problems or forget about it in another way (running, walking, drinking, etc.).

Mágoa

Mágoa means to feel hurt physically or emotionally, sadness, grief, and/or sorrow.

Lindeza

Lindeza is a term to describe someone; it can mean niceness and/or prettiness. It’s more than physical beauty.

Combinado

The word combinado translates to “combined” but is really a confirmation that something has been arranged. It’s the term used after making plans. For example, after someone states a plan of action, simply saying “combinado!” can mean “ok!”.

Espelhar

Espelho is the Portuguese word for “mirror,” so espelhar is the word for “to mirror” or “to copy” and can also mean “reflect.” Removing the “r” at the end of the word and replacing it with –mento is the same as appending –ing in English, thereby, creating the word espelhamento, which translates to “mirroring” or “copying.”

Fado

In Portuguese culture, fado is the name for a traditional form of music. What many people don’t realize is that it also means fate and destiny, something that is supposed to happen no matter what actions occur beforehand.

Águas passadas, não movem moinhos

Idioms are beautiful in every language, and this Portuguese idiom literally translates to “water under the bridge do not move mills.” In English, this phrase is like saying “what’s done is done.”

Beijinho

When the Portuguese greet someone or say goodbye, they kiss one another on each cheek. Beijinho is a combination of beijo (meaning kiss) and the suffix –inho (which symbolizes little or cute), meaning “little kiss,” and represents that action but can be used to finish an email or text message in place of “goodbye.”

Pois é

Pois é is a positive confirmation that is usually injected into a conversation. It’s also something people say when they don’t know what else to say.

It’s a beautiful day out. Pois é.

Engraçado/a

Engraçado/a is an adjective that can be used for a person, place, or thing. Calling someone engraçado (or engraçada, when referring to a female or a feminine word) is definitely positive, but it can mean attractive, funny, cool, or any other compliment.

Fofo

When something is fofo, it is cute or soft. A puppy or a child can both be fofo. Adding –inho to the end of the word, like fofinho, adds an element that represents extra cute or cuddly.

Desenrascanço

To disentangle oneself from an undesirable situation is to desenrascanço.

Cafuné

Cafuné is the one word on this list that’s more Brazilian than European Portuguese, and it represents the loving action of petting, caressing, or simply running fingers through hair (or fur, when petting an animal).