Brazil Comes Alive

The following work is a glossary of Portuguese terms found in Thomas Skidmore’s text, Brazil, Five Centuries of Change.  The glossary defines the terms in English and where necessary, explains the significance of the term with regards to Brazilian history and culture.  This glossary is important as it helps to clarify some often misunderstood terms for English speaking students of Brazilian history and also provides a unique and native insight on commonly used Brazilian terms.  This work was compiled by a several Portuguese speaking students, namely Josh Rowe and native Brazilian, Adi Gould (a graduate student who agreed to submit part of her work to our project).  This glossary is integral to the larger goals of our project as it defines many of the terms common to the study of Brazilian history so that all can easily understand their meaning and significance.

Term in Portuguese Literal Translation Definition
A cidade de rio
The city of Rio

A Nôva Política   The new politics  
Ação Integralista Brasileira    Brasilian Fundamentalist Action  
Aldeias Villages  Jesuit run native village
Aliança National Libertadora  National Liberation Alliance  
Amarelo  Yellow A racial category introduced by the Brazilian government in the census to attempt to categorize the racial makeup of the country. It was generally associated with Brazilians of East-Asian descent. However, it was not a very widely diffused identity, with few people self identifying as amarelo.

Aos Grades do Portugal Authorities in Portugal  
Bandeirantes Backwoodsmen, explorers
The main explorers of the Brazilian frontier and later became the subject of myths and folklore as well as a symbol of national identity. The traditional image of the banderiante includes that of a swashbuckling male with superhuman courage who combats the forces of nature and dangers of the natives. However, throughout history, a wide range of people joined in the bandeiras (expeditions) including plantation owners, traders, mulattos and the military.





Cold lunch


 become whiter

Cabras  goats Pro Brazilian faction
Caipira   Country folk A term used to identify people living in rural areas in the interior regions of Brazil who many times have a distinct accent identifiable the region. The closest English language translation for caipira lies somewhere between the English words redneck and backwoodsman. The caipira identity or stereotype is marked by a rugged nature and strong work ethic coupled with a degree of backwardness, lack of education, naivety, and use of "informal" Portuguese. During Festa Junina, a winter holiday, many people celebrate the Caipira lifestyle by dressing up in stereotypical  Caipira clothing and blacking out teeth. This is ironically underscored by the fact that most people who celebrate Festa Junina are non-Capiras.
Candomblé Candomblé Candomblé is a religion that developed in the Northeast of Brazil during the period of African slave trade. It is still practiced today, mostly within Brazil but in some other countries as well. While Candomble is heavily influenced by African traditions and belief systems carried over to Brazil by African slaves, it is a religion that developed independently within Brazil and is in many ways different from past or present religions indigenous to Africa. Religions similar to Candomble exist in other countries with legacies of slavery, most notably Cuba.  At the essence of Candoble is a veneration of nature, and it is a polytheistic religion with a host of spiritual entities, or orixas, that represent different natural manifestations. These orixas have human characteristics and are often compared with the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology.  Many of these spiritual entities have corresponding saints in the Catholic church; in a phenomenon called syncretism, elements of Candomble and of Catholicism are combined. Many terreiros, or centers of Candomble, include Catholic icons. Candomble was originally confined to slave populations, banned by the Catholic and persecuted and criminalized by the government. While today it still suffers some prejudices, especially by the Evangelical Christian community, it has thrived and expanded and is now an established and recognized religion.  The center of Candomble remains in and around the cities Salvador and Cachoeira in the state of Bahia.

Capoeira Capoeira Capoeira developed in the slave communities of colonial Brazil, beginning in the 15th century. It is a genre of physical movement that, which incorporates martial art, dance, musical performance, and folkloric ritual. Capoeira games are played between two people who spar using ritualized and improvised movement. These games take place within a roda, or ring of participants, and are accompanied by instrumental music and song. The lyrics of Capoeira songs are imbued with allegorical imagery, historical and religious references, and social commentary. The art’s roots draw on African tradition and on the slaves’ need for an effective form of resistance. Always informed by changing political and social conditions in Brazil, Capoeira has undergone numerous transformations. With abolition, in 1888, Capoeira became associated with the crime and street violence many freed slaves resorted to finding themselves without financial means or social status. In the early 1930s, Capoeira was formally institutionalized with the hope it would become Brazil’s national sport.  It began gaining legitimacy within Brazil, and in the 1970s began to achieve worldwide popularity. Having once been disdained by mainstream Brazil as a dubious pastime for the poor, criminal, and marginalized black population, Capoeira has transformed into a celebrated symbol of the nation's Afro-Brazilian heritage. Its history is bound to the history of race in Brazil, and while it has been synthesized to accommodate a global culture, Capoeira still remains politicized within Brazil as a platform for Afro-Brazilian empowerment.



 interior farmland



Consciência negra

 black awareness

date of Zumbi’s death celebrated as such in Rio

Contestado (war of the)




 representative body



Custo Brasil

Cost/expense of Brazil

Dia do Fico

Day of "I stay"

September 7, Pedro decides to stay in Brazil as emperor

El Macacón

 The Big Ape

Pedro II was dubbed this by Paraguayan propaganda



Entradas Entries  
Escola Superior de Guerra Higher education of war  
Estado Nôvo The New State After staging a coup in 1930 to overthrow Prestes and being elected by the Constituent Assembly of 1933-34, Getúlio Vargas had promised presidential elections in 1938. According to the constitution, he was ineligible to run for another term, and so Vargas conspired to stage another coup and prevent the election. On November 10, 1937, Vargas announced over the radio that a new Constitution had been drawn for the New State (or Estado Nôvo). This marked the beginning of the Vargas dictatorship.
Exaltados  The exalted A group opposed to Pedro II and moderate liberals, wanted greater provincial autonomy, some favored a republic


bandeirantes expeditions

Falta de braços   Lack of arms  
Favelas   Shantytowns Favelas are shantytowns found in many Brazilian cities, especially the largest ones such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Though some favelas started as informal neighborhoods for people without access to land or credit they have become a more or less permanent part of the landscape of many cities with millions of people currently inhabiting them. The drug-related violence that pervades many favelas is an unfortunate fact of life that those who live there must learn to deal with. Turf wars between organized gangs create danger within the favelas that at times spills over into the surrounding areas. In many favelas order is kept more often by the local drug traffickers than by the police since the police will rarely enter the favelas due to the drug-related danger. Even so, favelas have a dual identity and signify the epicenter for many cultural phenomena deemed distinctly Brazilian. Many of the most notable samba schools are still located in favelas, much samba music still comes from favelas, and the funk genre of music and also the way to dance to it originated from the favelas.


Feitorias Factories  
Futebol Soccer Futebol, known as soccer or football in English, is an integral and oft-exported part of the collective Brazilian identity. For many Brazilians futebol represents ideas and ideals that go beyond the excitement of the game itself.  Internationally it has become one of the nation’s most visible symbols. As such it represents the Brazilian struggle for modernity as a nation split between the first and third worlds attempting to elbow its way into the power structure. Domestically futebol transcends all of Brazil’s geographic and socioeconomic divisions. This makes it an easy point of distraction and, as Roman rulers in the past used games and competitions, Brazilian leaders have historically used futebol as a rallying point for a national identity, or as a method to appease the populace and distract citizens from inequality and suffering. With five World Cup titles under its belt as of the writing of this excerpt—the most of any country—it is easy to understand why Brazilians have such a zeal for, and are so easily taken with futebol.

Gazeta do Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro gazette

 replica of Portugal's gazette

Grito do Ipiranga

Cry of Ipiranga

Guarda Nacional

National Guard

Iemanja Iemanja
Índio  Indian The natives play a very important and expansive role in the history of Brazil. All methods from extermination and placing on reservations to integration into society were practiced. At the time of European discovery, these natives were mainly nomadic or semi-nomadic, existing on fishing, hunting, gathering and occasionally some agriculture. The thousands of tribes that existed at the introduction of European settlement died off or were directly exterminated. There has been much mixing with this population as a result of bandeirante and Jesuit activities. Today the cultural contributions of these natives are great, varying from food to dance and dress.
Instituto da pesquisas e estudos sociais

Institute of research and social studies

Juiz de fora

Outside judge

 regional judgeship

Justiça do Trabalho

Work court



Liga de Defesa Nacional

National Defense League

Liga Nacionalista 

National League



Muslims, black Africans that rose up in Salvador 1835



mixed population

Memórias do Cárcere
Cárcere's memoirs
Município municipality The cities, regions or towns of Brazil as defined by territory and population. Some of the most significant and historically relevant ones are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife. 
Navegar é preciso!

 We must sail!

Navio negreiro Black ship Ship carrying African slaves from Africa to Brazil
O Estado de São Paulo leading newspaper for São Paulo The role of this newspaper is very reflective of the state of Brazil and its people. For example, it never referred to Getúlio Vargas by his full name, instead preferring to use: “ex-dictator”. During the military dictatorship beginning in 1964, it was subject to prior censorship meaning that an army officer had to clear each copy before it was printed.
O Globo

The Globe

A conservative, daily newspaper published in Rio de Janeiro. The closest cultural equivalent in the United States would be USA Today

Panelinha   The little pan A network of friends
Pardo  brown A racial category that includes a broad range of mixed racial ancestry. It first appeared in censuses in the 19th century, when race was determined by the census taker, for whom “pardo” served as a miscellany category, when the subject could not be classified as either  'black', 'white', or 'yellow'. Beginning in the 1950s the census became based on self-classification, and pardo appeared as a category. There has been a rise in the number of individuals self-identifying as pardo. In 2000 38.5% or the population identified as such. 
Partido Social Democrático Democratic Social  Party  
Partido social progressista   Progressive Social Party  
Partido Trablhista Brasileiro the workers party political party functioning as the political arm of urban workers – This party, founded in 1945, found a patron in Vargas “who hoped to create a Brazilian version of the European Social Democratic parties”. Once the Dutra government outlawed the Communist Party, the PTB remained the only party in Brazil that appealed to the urban worker. This party was dissolved after the military coup in 1964 and then reformed in 1981 as a legacy.
Patrão   Patron  
Patria Fatherland regional homeland, Brazilians identified more with their region that the whole of Brazil (eg. patria paulista, patria bahiana)
Pés de chumbo

lead feet




Praça   Town square  
Preto/negro  black A racial classification signifying black. The term”preto” has derogatory connotations and “negro” is the generally acceptable way to refer to black individuals. The question of racial identity in Brazil is infinitely complex, and people of a broad range of racial backgrounds self identify and are identified as “negro.” Miscegenation has created a large population of individuals of mixed race, and the way in which they racially identify can be based on cultural factors as much as on the degree of darkness of their skin.
Programa de Metas

Program of Goals


Those who want (colloquial, invented word)

Quilombos Quilombos Quilombos (also known as mocambos) originated in Brazil as communities of escaped African slaves who banded together and lived communally. There were many different types and sizes of quilombos all over Brazil ranging from several dozen people to over 20,000 as in the case of the most famous quilombo: Palmares. Generally speaking quilombos established themselves in the interior, away from the plantations from which many inhabitants escaped. Most were not self-sustaining. Evidence of small-scale, subsistence farming exists, but many quilombos survived by plundering neighboring settlements for food. Following the trends of the Brazilian slave population at the time most quilombos were overwhelmingly male, and there are recorded cases of members of quilombos kidnapping female slaves from plantations or European women from settlements. The penchant that many quilombos’ inhabitants had for appropriating both women and foodstuffs created general uneasiness amongst many European settlers. Perceived as a threat by the Portuguese and Dutch to the social order and stability of the slave economy, there were many military expeditions mounted to crush the presence of quilombos in the Brazilian interior. Even so, many escaped destruction, and continued as symbols of freedom for slaves in bondage. Today many quilombos still exist within Brazil, although they have changed throughout the years, and serve as reminders of the Brazilian population’s ties to Africa.

Real Real the name of Brazilian currency

Resgate Ransom  ransoming, buying back people
Sertão Backlands the term was first used by the Portuguese to refer to the expanse of  Brazilian land away from the Atlantic coast where they first settled. Later on it came to refer to the semi-arid geographical region in Northeast Brazil, covering parts of Alagoas, Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará and Piauí. Rainfall in the Sertao is infrequent and erratic, and inhabitants of that region, many of whom are subsistence farmers, suffer from famine brought on by persistent drought, occasional flooding, and extremely unbalanced land ownership. The plight of the people of the Sertao was made famous by the book Os Sertoes, translated as Rebellion in the Backlands, written by the journalist Euclides da Cunha.
Sociedade promotora da imigracao

The Society for the Promotion of Immigration

Superintendência para o desenvolvimento do nordeste

The Superintendancy for the development of the Northeast




A political-military movement

União Democrática Nacional
National Democratic Union

Uti possidetis

 Ownership by possession

Valorização   Valorization  
Veja See Veja is a widely read Brazilian weekly national magazine published by the editor Abril. It includes articles about current domestic and international events, colorful graphic and photographic elements, interviews, and reports. Time Magazine in the U.S. would be a close cultural equivalent. 
Zona da mata

Forested zone

 humid strip

Zona de agreste Wilderness zone  semi-arid region