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9 Portuguese Words That Can’t Be Directly Translated Into English

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9 Portuguese Words That Can’t Be Directly Translated Into English

Some languages have words to describe things that another language cannot translate. The Inuit people have 50 words for snow, we have one or two. The language developed in an environment that was full of snow, sometimes year round. They had a lot of conversations about snow and developed a dialogue of words that describe one thing they know so well most can’t be translated. Likewise, there’re some Portuguese words that cannot be directly translated into English.

Apaixonar

Is a romantic word that describes an aspect of love. It’s not the feeling of love, it’s a verb, that when applied is basically the act of falling in love. This process is so romantic an Englishman has yet to think of a better way of describing it. I have no idea how to pronounce it but I know I enjoy it. The word could have an equivalent in the English word of “impassion” But Apraixonar holds a tenuous position. It is not the act of loving, it seems to be the moments before someone says “I love you”. This is a romantic language and love has many synonyms.

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Cafuné

This is described as “The act of running your fingers through someone else’s hair’. No one had ever thought of something like that in English speaking countries. How common does running your fingers through your hair have to be for a whole word to be designated for it?

Lindeza

Meaning “prettiness” but something that is also used as a term of endearment. It now becomes a noun in certain instances, maybe even a verb.

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Futevôlei

This is a crazy sport that combines volleyball and soccer. The sport is like beach volleyball but is not played with hands. “Footvolley” could be a rough translation but nothing can come close to Futevôlei.

Xodó

This means significant other or love. There can’t be any translation for it because this has many meanings as well. Your, love, pet, object of adoration and sometimes exodus. The fact that it has a contradictory definitions means there can be no full translation, like many English words.

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Farofa

This is a tradition dish that is hard to describe and even harder to translate. This food is served at barbecues in Brazil and is a traditional casserole and has an ingredient list that includes bananas.

Tapioca

You’ve seen Tapioca pudding before but I bet you didn’t know that this was a staple for some households and another untranslatable Portuguese word. You might think you know Tapioca but this is not actually a synthetic bubble in your pudding. Tapioca refers to a flat-bread that can be eaten alone or stuffed with delicious meats.

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Desenrascanço

This one is magical. So magical that we as Americans have no equivalent. The equivalent would be a fake word that we have coined from a fictional television show. The word describes getting out of a situation only with the available means one has. We could call it a McGyver but there is nothing that compares to a Desenrascanço.

Saudade

This word may mean that you seek out something bad that you enjoy. It hurts you, like an addiction but you like it anyways. Some say that it is nostalgia or remembrance of a long forgotten past that was not so good for you. You can be nostalgic about bad things, like the terrible cooking of a relative you’ve not seen in a while. A bad relationship pulls you in because love makes everyone crazy, but they’re just bad for you, maybe that’s saudade.

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