Portuguese has given English many words. Most people can tell that things like caipirinha and capoeira come from Portuguese. But there are many other words that English speakers use commonly that they have no idea come from Portuguese. Let’s take a look at some.
Some words such as albatross (from albatroz) and albino (from albino) come originally from Latin but went through Portuguese first to get to English. Some others came to English from Portugal, but usually they did it by going through French first.
Most words came into English through Brazil and have African or Native American origins due to the colonies and the slave trade. Two words that show this are caste (from casta) and labrador (from explorer João Fernandes Lavrador). Pickaninny (from pequenina) and negro (from negro) are two words derived from the slave trade that were used for a long time as racist insults, but are now luckily disappearing from everyday vocabulary.
Considering how big the Amazonian rain forest is, it’s really no surprise that many of the words with Portuguese origin are animal names. European colonisers hadn’t seen the animals before and picked up the names from the local languages, adapted them to Portuguese and then they made their way into English. Emu (from ema), cobra (from cobra), flamingo (from flamingo), jaguar (from jaguarete), macaw (from macau), macaque (from macaco), mosquito (from mosquito) and piranha (from piranha) all came into English from Brazilian Portuguese.
But the Brazilian Amazonia didn’t just give English flesh-eating animals and blood-sucking insects, it also opened the doors to a whole new culinary world! Fruits like cashew (from caju), acai (from açaí) and mango (from manga) grow in the Amazonian rain forest. As well as jackfruit (from jaca), even though its not native to Brazil, potatoes (from batata), tapioca (from tapioca) and manioc (from mandioca). Another food-related word is Brazil’s national dish: feijoada.
Two last food words we think deserve a mention are molasses (from melaço) and marmalade (from marmelada).
And some words you’d never guess come from Portuguese!
Apart from the ones we mentioned, there are also some extremely surprising words of Portuguese origin. Three of them are embarrass (from embaraçar), junk (from junco) and savvy (from sabe). But perhaps the most bizarre words to enter English from Portuguese are monsoon (from monção) and vindaloo (from vin d’alho)!
So next time you get embarrased because you’re not savvy enough to know if your vindaloo has cashew nuts or not and go for a toast with marmalade instead, remember all the words you wouldn’t be able to say without Portuguese!