• Virginia Langhammer

Words of Indigenous origin used in Brazil




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Did you know that there are many words of indigenous origin that have been incorporated into Brazilian Portuguese?


In this lesson, you will learn 10 words of indigenous origin that we use on a daily basis all over Brazil.


As you may already know, before the arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil, Brazilian territory was inhabited by many indigenous nations. At that time, hundreds of languages were spoken in this region, and even today there are many indigenous languages spoken in Brazil. For this reason, many words used in Brazilian Portuguese are of indigenous origin.


Here’s a list of 10 indigenous words used in Brazilian Portuguese:


1. Abacaxi (Pineapple)

The word “abacaxi” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “iwa’kati” or “i’ba-ka’ti”, which means “pleasant aroma” or “fruit that smells a lot”.

Let's see how to use this word in a sentence:

- Abacaxi é a fruta favorita da Maria. (Pineapple is Maria's favorite fruit.)

2. Carioca (someone from Rio de Janeiro)

Carioca are those who are born in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The word carioca comes from the Tupi-Guarani “kari’oka” and means “white person’s house”.

For example:

- Carlos é carioca. (Carlos is from Rio.)

3. Jabuti (tortoise)

Jabuti is a type of land turtle. The word “jabuti” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “yauo’ti” and it means “that which breathes nothing”.

For example:

- Minha avó tinha um jabuti quando eu era criança. (My grandmother had a tortoise when I was a child.)

4. Jururu (sad)

We use the word “jururu” to say that someone is sad. This word comes from the Tupi-Guarani “yuru-ru” which means “dangling neck”.

For example:

- João está meio jururu por causa da pandemia. (João is a bit sad because of the pandemic.)

5. Mandioca (cassava)

Mandioca is a widely used food throughout Brazil. The word “mandioca” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “mandi’oka” and means “home of Mandi”. This name is believed to refer to an indigenous legend.

For example:

- Maria gosta de feijão com farinha de mandioca. (Maria likes beans with cassava flour.)

6. Tapioca (cassava starch)

Tapioca is the name of a fine flour extracted from the cassava root. We also use the word “tapioca” to refer to a dish made with tapioca flour, which today is very popular in Brazil.

The word “tapioca” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “tipi’og” and means “agglutinated” or “starch”.

For example:

- Maria gosta de tapioca com leite condensado e coco. (Maria likes tapioca with condensed milk and coconut.)

7. Maracujá (passion fruit)

The word “maracujá” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “moroku’ya” and means “food in a bowl”.

For example:

- Maria adora suco de maracujá. (Maria loves passion fruit juice.)

8. Mingau (porridge)

“Mingau” is a creamy dish made for young children. The word "mingau" comes from the Tupi-Guarani "mina’u" and means "food that sticks".

For example:

- Joãozinho não gosta de comer mingau. (Joãozinho doesn't like to eat porridge.)

9. Mutirão (joint effort)

The word “mutirão” is used to refer to a group of people who got together in order to solve a situation or problem.

The word “mutirão” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “muti’rõ” and means “to help” or “work in common”.

For example:

- Os vizinhos fizeram um mutirão para limpar a rua. (The neighbors made a joint effort to clean the street.)

10. Pipoca (popcorn)

The word “popoca” comes from the Tupi-Guarani “pi’poka” and means “broken skin”.

For example:

- João gosta de pipoca doce. (João likes sweet popcorn.)

That's it! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about some words of indigenous origin. Of course, there are many other words of indigenous origin that we use in Brazilian Portuguese.


I’d like to know if you already knew these words. What other words of indigenous origin do you know? Leave a comment below with your answer.


Até a próxima!

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