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Words of Arabic origin in Portuguese

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Why are there hundreds of words of Arabic origin in the Portuguese language?

Long before the Portuguese came to Brazil, some Arabic peoples had already lived on the Iberian Peninsula for many centuries. So, naturally, the Portuguese language was influenced by Arabic.

A large part of these words starts with the letters AL-, which is the article used in the Arabic language corresponding with the definite articles o, a, os, as, in Portuguese.

At the time, the Portuguese didn’t understand this, so they just repeated the words. Due to this, in Portuguese, the article AL- was incorporated into the word. For example: "al-liqāṭ" in Arabic was transformed into “alicate” (plier) in Portuguese.

In addition to words that start with AL-, there are many terms that derive from Arabic words starting with AS-, AZ-, or AR-, among others.

10 words of Arabic origin that are very common in Brazil


1. Álcool (alcohol), from the Arabic al-kuhul

See some examples in the sentences:

  • Eu não bebo álcool há muitos anos. (I haven’t drunk alcohol for many years.)

  • É importante usar álcool em gel para desinfetar as mãos. (It’s important to use alcohol gel to disinfect your hands.)

2. Alface (lettuce), from the Arabic al-ḫass:

See some examples in sentences:

  • Eu adoro salada de alface com tomate! (I love lettuce salad with tomato!)

  • A minha sogra planta alface em seu quintal. (My mother-in-law plants lettuce in her yard.)

3. Alfazema (lavender), from the Arabic al-ḫuzāmah

See some examples in sentences:

  • Alfazema tem um cheiro maravilhoso! (Lavender has a wonderful smell!)

  • Meus tios cultivam alfazema no sítio deles. (My aunt and uncle grow lavender on their farm.)

4. Almofada (cushion), from the Arabic al-mukhaddâ

See some examples in sentences:

  • Precisamos comprar novas almofadas para o sofá. (We need to buy new couch cushions).

  • Minha mãe adora fazer capas de almofadas de crochê. (My mom loves to make crocheted cushion covers.)

5. Almôndega (meatball), from the Arabic al-bundqâ

See some examples in sentences:

  • João comeu espaguete com almôndegas no almoço. (João ate spaghetti with meatballs for lunch.)

  • Meu marido faz umas almôndegas veganas deliciosas. (My husband makes delicious vegan meatballs.)

6. Arroz (rice), from the Arabic ar-ruzz

See some examples in sentences:

  • Arroz com feijão é o prato mais brasileiro que existe. (Rice with beans is the most Brazilian dish that there is.)

  • Eu comeria arroz todos os dias. (I could eat rice every day.)

7. Azulejo (tile), from the Arabic az-zuleidj

See some examples in sentences:

  • Os azulejos portugueses são famosos por serem bonitos e trabalhados. (Portuguese tiles are famous for being beautiful and well-crafted.)

  • Eu gostaria de trocar os azulejos do meu banheiro. (I would like to replace the tiles in my bathroom.)

8. Café (coffee), from the Arabic qahwa

See some examples in sentences:

  • O Brasil é um dos maiores produtores de café do mundo. (Brazil is one of the largest producers of coffee in the world.)

  • Eu tomo café todos os dias. (I drink coffee every day.)

9. Laranja (orange), from the Arabic narandja

See some examples in sentences:

  • O suco de laranja espremida é um dos mais populares. (Squeezed orange juice is one of the most popular drinks.)

  • Minha mãe comprou uma bolsa laranja. (My mom bought an orange bag.)

10. Zero, from the Arabic sifr

See some examples in sentences:

  • Você sabe contar de zero a dez em português?(Do you know how to count from zero to ten in Portuguese?)

  • Maria teve que recomeçar do zero. (Maria had to start over from zero.)

That's it, everybody! I hope you enjoyed this lesson!

Até a próxima!

Speaking Brazilian School Team


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