Local Lingo: 16 Brazilian Slang Words to Speak Like a Native
Visiting Brazil can mean a lot of things.
But however you plan to enjoy Brazil, there’s one thing it means without a doubt: You’ll need to interact with the locals.
Because of that, you’ll also be exposed to a lot of Brazilian slang words and colloquialisms that sound completely nonsensical to the untrained ear.
Don’t fret: I’m here to show you the ropes and guide you toward slang proficiency!
- 1. E aí?
- 2. Bacana
- 3. Tá bom?
- 4. Beleza
- 5. Joia
- 6. Cara
- 7. Gato / gata
- 8. Foi mal
- 9. Falou
- 10. Valeu
- 11. Cabeça-dura
- 12. Mandar-se
- 13. Rolar
- 14. Topar
- 15. Pisar na bola
- 16. Pão-duro
- Why Is Learning Local Slang So Important?
- How to Learn Brazilian Slang
1. E aí?
E aí? is quite a colloquial way of saying “hi.” It’s pretty much like saying “what’s up?” in English.
E aí pessoal? — What’s up guys?
The word bacana means “good” or “awesome.” You might hear someone exclaim Que bacana! (“That’s awesome!”) when they hear about your latest Brazilian travel plans.
It’s generally used by Brazilians to describe something cool they’ve encountered recently.
Esse projeto é muito bacana. — This is a really cool project.
3. Tá bom?
A loose translation for tá bom? is “all good?” It’s a way of asking if someone agrees or is okay with a proposition.
We’ve used the exclamation form here, but tá bom can also be used as an affirmation—to express that you agree with something.
It’s also quite common to leave the word bom (good) out completely and just use tá.
Amanhã a gente conversa sobre isso, tá bom? — We’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?
Tá. — All right.
In a literal sense, beleza means “beauty” but in colloquial parlance it’s commonly used to show agreement.
Occasionally, you might hear someone sarcastically utter Que beleza (“Wonderful”) to express disdain about something they’ve seen or experienced—but for the most part, beleza is a positive term.
Vamos ao cinema amanhã? — Do you want to go the cinema tomorrow?
Beleza, te encontro as 5h. — Okay, I’ll meet you at 5 p.m.
Another way of showing agreement. The literal translation for joia is “jewel” but Brazilians use it to express that they’re on board with something (the same as with beleza) or to tell someone that they’re well.
Tudo bem? — How are you?
Tudo joia! — I’m great!
Cara is colloquially used to mean “face” but it’s also slang used to talk about a guy or a man.
We’ll provide a few examples that showcase both senses.
Esse cara é louco. — This guy’s crazy.
Ela me deu um tapa na cara. — She slapped me in the face.
Cara, a prova foi muito difícil. — Man, that test was really hard.
7. Gato / gata
For the unprepared, hearing someone described as a “cat” (gato) might sound a little weird. But in Brazil, that’s how people describe someone who’s “hot” or good looking.
O ator principal dessa novela é um gato. — The leading man in this TV soap is very attractive.
(Cultural tip: Brazilian soaps/TV dramas are very popular both locally and abroad. You should definitely take a look at few if you want to learn about what makes the society tick and to hear some of the colloquial language we’ve mentioned thus far being put into good use).
8. Foi mal
In English, someone might say “My bad!” when they’ve made an obvious blunder. The Brazilian Portuguese alternative is foi mal.
Ops, foi mal! Não era pra fazer isso! — Oops, my bad! I wasn’t meant to do this!
Falou comes from the past tense of the verb falar (to talk or to say).
As a slang word, falou is used in a similar manner to tá bom—it’s a way of saying “okay,” in both an interrogative manner and as an affirmation.
Again, we’ll provide a few examples for this one.
Amanhã eu te passo os detalhes, falou? — I’ll send you the details tomorrow, all right?
Te vejo no sábado as 10h. — I’ll see you 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Falou, até lá. — Okay, see you then.
Valeu comes from the past tense of the verb valer (to be worth something). Colloquially, it’s used to say thanks.
Aqui está. — Here you go.
Valeu! — Thanks!
Literally a “hard-head,” cabeça-dura is a phrase that describes someone who’s very stubborn or stuck in their ways.
João é um cabeça-dura, ele nunca vai mudar. — João is very stubborn, he’ll never change.
A colloquial verb that’s best translated as “to get out.”
It can be used in an imperative manner (as in, to command someone to leave) or in a descriptive sense to talk about your own pursuits of leaving a place where you don’t want to be.
Se manda daqui! — Get out of here!
Vou me mandar para as ilhas do Caribe nesse inverno. — I’m setting off for the Caribbean islands this winter.
Esse lugar é muito perigoso, vou me mandar daqui. — This is a really dangerous place, I’m getting out of here.
You might be able to guess the literal meaning of this one: rolar is the infinitive of the verb “to roll.” But it’s not used in the same way as the English-language “let’s roll.” Rather, Brazilians use rolar to talk about an event—in the past, present or future.
Vai rolar uma festa na casa do Lucas amanhã. — There’s going to be a party at Lucas’ place tomorrow
Rola um churrasco esse fim de semana? — Shall we have a barbecue over the weekend?
This is quite a straightforward one to learn: topar is a colloquial verb that means “to agree” or “to accept” to do something.
Ele topou me ajudar com o meu dever de casa. — He agreed to help me with my homework.
15. Pisar na bola
Literally translated as “stepping on the ball,” pisar na bola describes a situation when someone messes up or lets someone down.
Sua irmã pisou na bola feio comigo. — Your sister really let me down.
Se você pisar na bola de novo, está fora do time. — If you mess up once again, you’re off the team.
In Brazilian Portuguese someone who’s a “hard-bread” (pão-duro) is a miserly scrooge—in other words, a very frugal and stingy person.
Esse cara é um pão-duro. — This guy’s a scrooge.
Why Is Learning Local Slang So Important?
Simply put, slang is an essential part of vocabulary-building.
Yes, your formal phrases, grammar rules and sentence construction are all vitally important—but language-learning needs to go beyond the textbook essentials to see how everything actually comes together in everyday interactions.
Because at the end of the day, you’ll only become fluent in Brazilian Portuguese if you make your studies relevant and authentic.
The more you incorporate native content into your learning, the sooner you’ll be able to communicate with Brazilians on their home turf, so stay tuned and check back soon for authentic, immersive learning.
This is also the reason why watching local Brazilian movies, listening to local music and reading literature are methods often recommended as supplementary study tools.
You can also use the immersion program FluentU, which teaches Brazilian Portuguese videos to teach the language. These authentic videos, like movie clips, music videos and inspirational talks, are a great way to see Portuguese being used by native speakers of the language.
This means that you can pick up on Brazilian slang naturally, and discover language that you might not learn in a textbook. You can check the meaning of any word in a video by hovering over or clicking on it in the subtitles. These translations are contextual, so you’ll know immediately if a word is slang of colloquial.
FluentU lets you make custom flashcard decks, and populate them with vocabulary found in the program’s videos. As you watch, add new slang words and expressions as flashcards right from the subtitles. Then, study them with personalized quizzes that adapt to your speed and progress.
You can use FluentU in a browser or download the iOS or Android app to learn on the go. The app versions will also let you practice pronunciation thanks to questions that use speech recognition.
Every bit of native language that you’re exposed to will go the distance.
Slang is just one of the many facets of Brazilian Portuguese that you’ll need to learn in order to achieve true fluency.
How to Learn Brazilian Slang
To learn some authentic slang, you’ll need to find it, first. The 16 terms in this post will get you started!
But to go beyond this starter pack, you can research and study some common phrases and terms on your own.
Google and YouTube are both great resources for this: Simply look for authentic Brazilian content. Intermediate to advanced speakers can also consult the Dicinário inFormal to get new leads on colloquialisms—just keep in mind that all definitions provided are in Portuguese.
Once you’ve compiled a list of slang terms, enter each new term into your preferred dictionary app to check its meaning and click the audio button to hear how it’s meant to sound. That’s your cue to repeat the words to yourself a few times so you can get the pronunciation right.
As you gain more confidence with your newly acquired lingo, you’ll want to start incorporating it into real-life exchanges. You don’t have to go all the way to Brazil to do this: Finding someone to talk to can be as easy as going to Brazilian Portuguese language exchange Meetups in your area or signing up for an online language partner service like Tandem.
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, let’s learn some slang!
As you might have noticed in the last example, some slang terms can actually go quite well together.
That’s the beauty of slang: The more vocabulary words you learn, colloquial or otherwise, the easier it’ll be to form patterns and sentences like a native Brazilian speaker.
So go forth, keep practicing and don’t forget to put all these great phrases to good use with your other study materials.
Boa sorte! (Good luck!)