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The #1 hack to boost your Portuguese Vocabulary – English-Portuguese Cognates

Here you are, learning a new language and probably assuming that you are starting from ground zero. What if that’s not the case at all?  What if you are actually more acquainted with Portuguese than you thought you were?

In this article, I will show you a powerful hack to dramatically grow your Portuguese vocabulary, in no time!

See, if you are familiarized with English, you already know thousands of Portuguese words. Yes, you’ve been sitting on a huge vocab-reservoir right from the start without even noticing it.

Let me elaborate. Cognates, more specifically English-Portuguese cognates, create a considerable vocab-overlap between these two languages.

Cognates?

Cognates are words that, having a common root, look similar on both ends while sharing the same meaning. English and Portuguese share thousands of words stemming from either Latin or Greek, thus the abundance of cognates.

In this post, I am giving you more than just a random list of common English-Portuguese cognates (e.g., banana, radio, natural, animal, etc). Instead, you will be learning to use your pre-existent knowledge in English by pointing it towards Portuguese – it will exponentially increase your Portuguese vocabulary overnight. Powerful!

It is actually straightforward. You will be mining your English vocab by converting English words to their Portuguese counterparts – all it takes is a few tweaks in spelling and pronunciation.

Let’s get started.

Not All Cognates Are Made Equally Perfect!

While many of the cognates share the exact same meaning, there are instances where the semantic overlap is imperfect. For instance, words that are closely related but are, nonetheless, used in slightly different ways and different contexts.

Also, there are cognates whose meanings have largely drifted apart with time, so much so that they’ve become so-called false cognates, also known as false friends. You’ll find a list with common English-Portuguese false cognates at the end.

Spanish speakers! Read an analogous article concerning Portuguese-Spanish cognates: Portuguese-Spanish Cognates and False Friends.

Noun cognates

Group 1: …ion > …ão 

This group is the largest within the noun category. Due to slight variations in the spelling patterns, it can be divided into three subgroups.

Common to all the subgroups: nearly all Portuguese cognates are feminine words. Also, all these cognates are stressed on the last syllable and produce a nasal diphthong-sound (indicated by the tilde accent).

Let’s look into each subgroup and their cognates:

tion > …ção

This subgroup comprises English nouns ending with –tion and their Portuguese counterparts with -ção. Here’re some examples:

…tion…ção
stationa estação
nationa nação
animationa animação
alterationa alteração
educationa educação
assimilationa assimilação
introductiona introdução
operationa operação
. . .  . . .

sion > …são

The cognates in this subgroup take the endings -sion and -são on the English and Portuguese ends respectively.

Note that the endings –ção (previous subgroup) and –são produce different consonant sounds, namely, an unvoiced sibilant (as in simple) and a voiced one (as in zebra) respectively. A few examples:

…sion…são
divisiona divisão
transfusiona transfusão
conclusiona conclusão
invasiona invasão
aversiona aversão
dimensiona dimensão
precisiona precisão
confusiona confusão
. . .  . . .

ssion > …ssão

The English nouns in this subgroup end in –ssion, whereas the Portuguese counterparts end with –ssão *. A few examples:

* Note that the double ss in –ssão renders an unvoiced sibilant, just like the ç in –ção does. If you want to learn more about Portuguese phonology and spelling patterns, go ahead and read this article:  Portuguese Pronunciation: A Helpful Guide to Portuguese Basic Sounds and Spelling Patterns.

…ssion…ssão
compressiona compressão
recessiona recessão
progressiona progressão
professiona profissão
emissiona emissão
sessiona sessão
missiona missão
digressiona digressão

Before you go on! Note that while the conversion patterns mentioned throughout this post apply to a large number of words, they surely don’t apply to all. “Conspiração” in English is certainly not “conspiration” but “conspiracy”.

Thus, don’t look at these conversion patterns as infallible formulas.

Still, it is well worth to take the risk and give it a shot. Chances are that you’ll get it right. If not, well, the worst it can happen is some funny, unheard word coming out of your mouth that people will probably understand anyway. It might also trigger some good laughter and reinforce social bonding. Not bad, uh?

Group 2: …ism > …ismo

In this group, we’ve got English and Portuguese cognates ending with -ism and -ismo respectively. The Portuguese words in this group are masculine.

Note that the letter s in -ismo produces a similar voiced sound to the s in measure.  Finally, keep in mind that the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. Here’re some examples:

…ism…ismo
rationalismo racionalismo
regionalismo regionalismo
communismo comunismo
capitalismo capitalismo
organismo organismo
pacifismo pacifismo
conformismo conformismo
racismo racismo
. . .  . . .

Group 3: …gram > …grama

The English and Portuguese cognates in this group take the suffix -gram and -grama respectively. The Portuguese words are masculine and the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable:

…gram…grama
diagramo diagrama
programo programa
ideogramo ideograma
gramo grama
kilogramo quilograma
telegramo telegrama
seismogramo sismograma
pictogramo pictograma
. . .  . . .

Group 4: …ity > …dade

This group consists of English and Portuguese cognates ending with -ity and -dade respectively. Most of the Portuguese words in this group are feminine.

Note how that vowel e in -dade is hardly pronounced (as if the words ended with the consonant d). The stress is on the next-to-last syllable:

…ity…dade
responsibilitya responsabilidade
superficialitya superficialidade
functionalitya funcionalidade
flexibilitya flexibilidade
compatibilitya compatibilidade
productivitya produtividade
spiritualitya espiritualidade
visibilitya visibilidade
. . .  . . .

Adjective cognates

Group 5: …ist > …ista

All English-Portuguese cognate pairs in this group end with -ist and -ista respectively. Note that many of the adjectives in this group are names of professions/occupations and can, thus, be also treated as nouns. Here’s an example:

Adjectiv
O António é pianista.
Anthony is a pianist.

Noun
O pianista toca amanhã.
The pianist is playing tomorrow.

Note! Ending with an a in the masculine form, these adjectives always keep the same form regardless of whether they refer to masculine or feminine words.

Tips! To learn more about gender in the Portuguese language read the following article: Disentangling Gender with Portuguese Masculine-to-Feminine Spelling Patterns.

And because gender and number go hand in hand, you might also be interested in this one: Forming the Plural in Portuguese: Singular-to-Plural Conversion Patterns You Need to Care About.

Finally, that s in -ista renders an unvoiced fricative sound similar to sh in sheet. Once again, the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. Here’re some examples:

…ist…ista
epidemiologistepidemiologista
pianistpianista
alpinistalpinista
dentistdentista
geneticistgeneticista
sentimentalistsentimentalista
altruistaltruista
existentialistexistencialista
. . .  . . .

Group 6: …ent > …ente

All the words in this group end with -ent and -ente in English and Portuguese respectively. Since the Portuguese adjectives end with the letter e, they are invariable regardless of whether they refer to masculine or feminine words.

Again, note the nearly nonexistent e-sound and the word stress on the next-to-last syllable:

…ent…ente
insufficientinsuficiente
permanentpermanente
competentcompetente
correspondentcorrespondente
independentindependente
intelligentinteligente
existentexistente
consistentconsistente
. . .  . . .

Group 7: …ble > …vel

The English words in this group end with -ble, whereas the Portuguese, with -vel. Ending with a consonant, these Portuguese adjectives look the same whether they refer to masculine or feminine nouns.

Note that the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable (in this case, you actually have the acute accent indicating that). A few examples:

…ble…vel
considerableconsiderável
possiblepossível
probableprovável
incredibleincrível
visiblevisível
irreversibleirreversível
intelligibleinteligível
convertibleconvertível
. . .  . . .

Group 8: …ar > …ar

This group consists of English-Portuguese cognates that end with -ar on both ends. Ending with a consonant, the Portuguese adjectives remain invariable regardless of the gender of the word they refer to.

Note that all Portuguese words ending with r are stressed on the last syllable *. Here’re some examples:

* Further reading! Learn more about Portuguese word stress: Portuguese Word Stress and Accent Marks.

…ar…ar
molecularmolecular
cellularcelular
curricularcurricular
rectangularretangular
nuclearnuclear
popularpopular
familiarfamiliar
similarsimilar
. . .  . . .

Group 9: …ic > …ico/a

The English adjectives in this group end with -ic, while the Portuguese with either -ico or –ica depending on the gender of the word they refer to, that is, -ico for masculine words and -ica for feminine.

Note that the stress falls on the third-from-last syllable. In this case, all words have a diacritical accent indicating the stress:

…ic…ico/a
magneticmagnético/a
transatlantictransatlântico/a
electricelétrico/a
anthropogenicantropogénico/a
problematicproblemático/a
logiclógico/a
parametricparamétrico/a
paradigmaticparadigmático/a
. . .  . . .

Group 10: …ive > …ivo/a

In this group, the English cognates end with -ive, whereas the Portuguese with -ivo or -iva depending on if the adjective in question refers to a masculine or feminine word correspondingly.

The word stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. A few examples:

…ive…ivo/a
competitivecompetitivo/a
aggressiveagressivo/a
conservativeconservativo/a
expressiveexpressivo/a
creativecreativo/a
respectiverespetivo/a
persuasivepersuasivo/a
repetitiverepetitivo/a
. . .  . . .

Group 11: …ous > …oso/a

The English cognates of this group end with -ous whereas the Portuguese with either -oso or –osa, depending on if they refer to either a masculine or feminine word.

While this group is definitely not the most numerous one, there still are quite a few words in it. The word stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. A few examples:

…ous…oso/a
religiousreligioso/a
contagiouscontagioso
prestigiousprestigioso/a
mysteriousmisterioso/a
glamorousglamoroso/a
vigorousvigoroso/a
curiouscurisoso/a
sinuoussinuoso/a
. . .  . . .

 

Adverb/verb cognates

Group 12: …ly > …mente

The adverbs in this group end with the suffix -ly in English and with -mente in Portuguese. Note that all adjectives of the previous group (group 10) become adverbs and members of this group if you add the endings -ly (English) and -mente (Portuguese) to them.

Again, the e-sound at the end of these adverbs is hardly noticeable. Finally, note that the word stress falls on the next-last-syllable. Here’re some examples:

…ly…mente
regularlyregularmente
particularlyparticularmente
originallyoriginalmente
finallyfinalmente
vulgarlyvulgarmente
peculiarlypeculiarmente
spectacularlyespetacularmente
normallynormalmente
. . .  . . .

Group 13: …ate > …ar

This group contains English verbs ending with -ate whose Portuguese counterparts end with -ar. The stress is on the last syllable. A few examples:

…ate…ar
integrateintegrar
celebratecelebrar
regulateregular
orientateorientar
participateparticipar
proliferateproliferar
coordinatecoordinar
perpetuateperpetuar
. . .  . . .

Tips! There are other English-Portuguese commonalities making Portuguese quite accessible for those who are acquainted with English. Learn more about it: Portuguese Grammar Compared to English.

English-Portuguese false friends

There are a few English-Portuguese false friends, or false cognates if you will. Looking quite similar, these are words that people often assume to have the same meaning. Except that they don’t.

False friends often lead to funny, sometimes embarrassing, situations. It’s good to keep an eye on them.

Here’s a list with a bunch of common English-Portuguese false friends. Enclosed in parentheses are the actual equivalent words of the other language:

ENGLISHPORTUGUESE
parents
(pais)
parentes
(relatives)
novel
(romance)
novela
(soap opera)
data
(dados)
data
(date as in 10th of  February)
gentile
(pagão, infiel)
gentil
(kind)
lunch
(almoço)
lanche
(a snack)
enroll
(matricular, inscrever)
enrolar
(wind up)
preservative
(conservante)
preservativo
(condom)
record
(gravar)
recordar
(remember)
adept
(apto, ágil, hábil)
adepto
(supporter, fan, enthusiast)
library
(biblioteca)
livraria
(bookstore)
fabric
(tecido)
fábrica
(factory)
injury
(falta, lesão)
injúria
(insult)
facility
(lugar, instalação)
facilidade
(ease)
balcony
(varanda)
balcão
(counter)
resume
(continuar)
resumir
(summarize)
expert
(perito)
esperto
(smart, clever)
push
(empurrar)
puxar
(pull)
grip
(firmeza, tração)
gripe
(flu)
costume
(traje)
costume
(tradition, habit)
tax
(impostos)
taxa
(rate, fee)
exit
(saída)
êxito
(success)
eventually
(finalmente)
eventualmente
(maybe)
exquisite
(requintado)
esquisito
(weird)
educated
(letrado, cultivado)
educado
(polite)
stranger
(estranho)
estrangeiro
(foreign)
refrigerant
(refrigerant)
refrigerante
(most commonly soda, soft drink)
particular
(particular, específico)
particular
(often used as private or personal)
constipation
(prisão de ventre )
constipação *
(a cold)
transpiration
(transpiração vegetal **)
transpiração
(perspiration)
combine/combined
(combinar/combinado)
combinar/combinado!
(to arrange a meeting or appointment/deal!)

* constipação also means “constipation”, but it’s only used in medical terms.
** the word transpiração is also used to denote “plant transpiration”; otherwise, it means “perspiration” (daily life).

Reading tips! Here’s a more comprehensive false friends list: 50+ English-Portuguese False Friends to Keep an Eye Out For

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