Tag Archives: Portuguese

Substantivos coletivos – aka – Things I’ll never learn in Portuguese

It was during our trip to Bonito, that I first realised that Portuguese had more nouns for groups of animals than English or German. A woman had asked what again the word was for a swarm of butterflies, and the answer was panapaná –  used for butterflies and nothing else.

Indeed, as a colleague taught me later, Portuguese has a whole set of nouns that describe groups of animals, going way beyond the swarm, herd or flock other languages have to offer. Some of these collective nouns are unique to wild or domestic animals, some to birds or fishes and others can be used just as well for a group of bandits.

There are more than comprehensive lists of these collective nouns available online, though the ones I found most compelling are:

  •  Colmeia – beehive / swarm of bees
  • Panapaná – a swarm of butterflies
  • Alcatéia – a pack of wild animals (wolves, lions, wild hogs, etc.)
  • Gado – cattle
  • Manada – a group of donkeys, horses or cattle
  • Boiada – a herd of cows
  • Cardume – a swarm of fishes
  • Fato – a group of goats
  • Cambada, gatarrada, gataria – a group of cats
  • Ponta – a group of mules
  • Vara – a group of pigs
  • Trompa – a group of lamas

To portuguese

is indeed a verb in Portuguese: Aportuguesar; which is nothing else but to adapt a word from a foreign language. Usually, this is done by modifying the spelling of the word, in order to keep its pronunciation similar:

  • tuitar – to tweet
  • beisebol – baseball

And, the absolute favourite in our house: bleacaute – blackout.

Sometimes however, the original spelling is kept and only modified so far as to make a proper verb, e.g. pasteurizar or parboilizar which has then all the properties & conjugations of any (regular) verb.



  • rali – rally
  • uisque – whiskey
  • caubói – cowboy
  • coquetel – cocktail

Small change – big words

a little insight into the Brazilian language*…

As far as I have noticed, any noun in Brazil can be modified by adding a

  • ão – making it a ‘bigger’, or
  • inho / inha (depending on gender) – making it smaller


  • Jogão – an eventful, big game (of, let’s say, football)
  • Favorzão – a big favor
  • Favorzinho – a small favor
  • Chuvinha – fine / little rain
  • The famous cafezinho – a small / quick coffee
  • works also for chazinho – i.e. tea

Sometimes however, the meaning of the words shiftes ever so slightly when marked by such a suffix:

  • Peixão – big fish – also synonym for a woman with curves
  • Peixinho – small fish – also synonym for the boss’ favorite in the office

Beyond the meaning, comes the wish-thinking in the form of problemazinho – a little, a small problem. While grammatically, problemazão exists as well, no Brazilian would ever admit that you are just confronted with a such.

Which leaves us – last but not least – with obrigadão – a big thank you for reading!

* Technically português do Brasil as opposed to português do Portugal. Only that I have absolutely no idea about the latter since I’ve never been there.

On demand language skills

Today, I had one of those moments where I just wished not to understand other people. Of course, it’s a good sign that I understand by now almost anything or anybody when it comes to Portuguese.

But when I had to wait today in a ministry, these two people next to me… How to say this politely? I do not care what you had for dinner. And no, you don’t need to call your daughter to ask her how the pudim was she had after lunch. And no, I don’t want to know that you are accused by everybody in your family of having too many midnight snacks.  And so it went on and on and on for the entire 60 minutes waiting time…

It was one of those moments in which I longingly remember the blissful time when I would simply continue reading my book because I didn’t understand and  in which I very much wish that language skills could be momentarily suspended.

Infelizmente, não é possivel.

Primera semana

The first week in a new place. In a new country for this matter. This irritating feeling to have lost all reference points. And, even worse, not really being able to speak the language.
The nagging realization that in a week’s time, there is no plane to go ‘home’. Because ‘home’ is something I want to, I have to build here and now. The distressing insight that all friends, all acquaintances, all the little places I used to go are a solid 8000 km away…

But then, there is also the police officer who walks over and then doesn’t stop chatting with me for almost an hour. That helped to boost the confidence in my Portuniol! There is the moment when taking a sport class and three ladies come over to say hello. And the successful finding of this building I was looking for even though the bus dropped me off at a 20 minutes distance. There is the chat with the lady from the university secretariat. The professor is still not in but  now I know when he should be. And the ride home in a cab that a guy at the bus stop negotiated for me. Did cost only 0.50 reais more than the bus and was much, much faster.

Leaving life at is behind to build a new one. Never easy, but almost always worth trying.