False Friends: Brazilian Portuguese




Brazilian learners beware! English and Portuguese are full of words that appear to be the same, but unlike cognates, they mean completely different things. Here is a list of 5 false friends between the two languages:

1. push | puxe
Yes, doors that say push want you to “empurrar” while doors that say pull ask you to “puxar.” Happens to the best of us.

2. degree | degrau
Your mom will make fun of you if you mix these up: degree means grau while degrau means step.

3. college | colégio
The word college refers to faculdade, colégio means high school or grade school

4. fabric | fábrica

Fabric in Portuguese is tecido, but those of us who have lived in the U.S. long enough might mistakenly say fábrica when holding a piece of cloth before remembering fábrica means factory.

5. portrait | portraretrato

I might be the only one who makes this mistake, but portraretrato doesn’t exist. Portrait in Portuguese is retrato. It’s a bad habit I can’t undue because now I forget which is which.