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Common Portuguese Words That Don’t Show up in Grammar Books

edited April 2018 in Portuguese

The following words appear very often in everyday interactions. They are not formal expressions, yet are well known and used by everyone, young and old. Most of them are also hard to translate into a single word. 

It’s good to know these words so you can understand when they show up in conversations and use them to pepper your own exchanges.


*Chilique is used to refer to an exaggerated emotional outburst. Ele teve um chilique quando viu a abelha no seu braço. He had a conniption when he saw a bee on his arm


*Gambiarra means a usually unlawful electrical extension or any improvised quick fixes using alternative parts. Eu não tinha a peça certa então fiz uma gambiarra. I didn’t have the correct part so I had to improvise.


*Jeitinho is to resort to unlawful or shady practices to solve a problem. Nós não temos um convite para entrar. Vamos ver se o segurança pode dar um jeitinho. We don’t have an invitation to go in. Let’s see if the security guard can “help” us out.


*Quebrar o galho, literally to break a branch, is used to say that an improvised or subpar alternative will have to be used to solve a problem. O hotel não tem ar-condicionado, use o ventilador para quebrar o galho. The hotel doesn’t have a.c., use a fan to make do


*Paquerar means to flirt. Os rapazes gostam de lugares onde podem ouvir música e paquerar. Young men like places where they can listen to music and flirt.


*Mordomia is related to perks, luxuries and amenities. Eu fico naquele hotel por causa de todas a mordomias: piscina aquecida, serviço de baby-sitter e restaurante cinco estrelas. I stay at that hotel because of luxuries like heated swimming pool, babysitters and a five-star restaurant


Have you heard any Portuguese expressions that you need to translate suing more than one word? 

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