Rio de Janeiro is a slang capital – that’s not an official title, yet it can seem like it when listening to Cariocas (people born in Rio) speak. To understand what’s going on around you when in Rio, here is a list of useful slang words that will help you get the gist of the conversations better. Bonus points if you can use them whilst talking to the locals.
‘Ei mano/cara, beleza?’
This phrase is a common greeting between friends – especially among men – and it is a deviation from the more polite yet commonly used, oi, tudo bem? (‘hi, how are you?’). While beleza literally translates into beauty, in this context it roughly translates into ‘hey dude, what’s up?’.
Caraca is a word used to express surprise in a situation, and you will probably hear it a lot in Rio. It would loosely translate to ‘wow’ or ‘oh my god/gosh’. You may hear this word as well at the end of sentences but in a slightly different form – pra caraca, meant to emphasise the previous statement. For example, ‘it is raining a lot/bucket loads’ would be está chovendo pra caraca.
This word is one of those that can be used for almost everything and in any situation. It translates roughly into ‘thingy’ or ‘thingamajig’ in English. For example, ‘I’m hungry, I’m going to eat that thingy’ would be estou com fome, vou comer aquela parada, or ‘I will go to the city centre to do that thingamajig’ would be vou ao centro fazer aquela parada.
You will definitely hear this a lot in Rio de Janeiro! Valeu is an informal way to say ‘thanks’ and would translate to ‘cheers’ in English. You can use it in any situation. For example, if the waiter comes over and brings you the bill, you can respond, valeu.
Estar bolado – or bolada for the feminine word – means to be angry with someone. So, the nearest similar slang in English would be ‘he is fuming’ for ele está bolado.
This word is another popular slang and is used every day in Rio. Tranquilo literally translates into ‘tranquil’, but it usually is used to mean ‘it’s ok’ or ‘yeah, sure’. For example, when someone says, ‘I’m sorry, I’m going to be five minutes late!’, a Carioca may respond, tranquilo.
This word is a popular slang among the younger generation of Rio de Janeiro. Sinistro literally means sinister, yet it is often used in a completely different context to mean ‘cool’. So if you watch a great film and someone asks you how it was, you can reply, o filme foi sinistro – ‘the film was really cool’.