Six Portuguese Words You Probably Didn’t Know Originated From The Arabic Language

May 5 is World Portuguese Language Day, a day when the Portuguese language is celebrated through a slew of cultural activities including musical performances, art exhibitions, competitions and much more. Considered as one of the most important languages of today, it is the sixth most spoken language in the world and funnily enough, only 5% of Portuguese speakers live in Portugal. Did you also know that there are some Portuguese words that are actually derived from Arabic? For a dose of fun knowledge, we put together several Portuguese words that have Arabic origins.


Widely adored as the one ingredient known to sweeten up any dessert or dish, sugar is one of the ultimate must-haves in any kitchen. When taking this word and translating it into Portuguese it would be “açúcar” but if we take a look at the origins of the word, we’d notice how it was actually borrowed from the arabic word “sukkar”, meaning sugar.


Coming all the way to Portugal is a word where the Arabic translation is completely different from that of the Portuguese language. The word is “mesquinho”, derived from the Arabic word “mesqeen” which means poor but when translated to Portuguese, it is meant to describe someone who is stingy, selfish and doesn’t like to share.


A common staple in many dishes, rice is probably one of the most popular meals found across the globe. In Portugal, people call it “arroz” which is actually derived from the Arabic word “roz”.


Known as the star ingredient in delicious dishes like the moussaka, eggplants are a widely popular and adored vegetable. In Portuguese, the word for this infamous vegetable is “beringela” which is actually derived from the arabic word “betingan”, which also means eggplant.


Beyond food and drinks, there are other kinds of Arabic words that made their way to the Portuguese language, one of which is the word ‘fulano’, used to vaguely refer to a person or thing. It is derived from the Arabic word “fulan” which shares the same meaning.


Perfumes, bottled drinks as well as sanitizers are known to house the infamous chemical known as alcohol. In the Portuguese language, everyone refers to it as “álcool”, a word that was derived from the arabic word “al-kuhul”, meaning alcohol.

All these words showcase how countries and cultures are truly interconnected and how there is a constant exchange of knowledge, information and customs across borders.

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