The history of Portuguese and English is long and storied. Many of the Portuguese loan words we have in English today are from the Age of Discovery, when Portuguese explorers (people who traveled the world to “discover” new land) were coming to the New World and interacting (talking) with sailors from all over the world.

If you’ve been wanting to learn Portuguese, then you’re in luck! With our blog, you’ll be well on your way with all of the Portuguese loan words we have in English, and Bespeaking now offers Portuguese lessons. To help you get started with your new Portuguese adventure, check out these Portuguese loan words below!


Have you ever seen an albino animal? If something is albino, it generally has completely white fur and red eyes. Albinism is a genetic (in the genes) condition where neither the skin nor the fur have any pigment.

Our word for albino comes from the Portuguese word albino, meaning “white”.


Did you know that our word for banana comes from a Portuguese word of African origin? Neither did I! The next time you’re cutting some banana on your cereal in the morning, you can thank Portugal for the word for it!


There’s nothing quite like a light breeze on a warm summer day. The word breeze in English comes from the Portuguese word briza, which means “northeastern wind.”


I love a nice piece of caramel, especially around Halloween. Caramel apples are one of the best treats (something special) in the fall (the season after summer)! The word for caramel in English comes from the Portuguese caramelo, which means the same thing.


When you think of cobras, you may think of snake charmers in dry deserts, but the word for cobra is actually a Portuguese loan word. Cobra is the short form for cobra-de-capelo, which means “snake with a hood.” If you think about it, cobras do look like they’re wearing large hats.


Being embarrassed (feeling shame) is never a nice feeling, but it happens from time to time. Our word for embarrass comes from the Portuguese embaraçar, which means “embarrassed,” and “to tangle.”

When you’re embarrassed, it definitely feels like you’re a bit tangled up, so this is a great way to remember that.


The English word for the large pink birds that stand on one leg comes directly from the Portuguese word for the same bird. Flamingo in Portuguese also comes from the Spanish word flamenco.


Labrador retrievers are everyone’s favorite dogs. They’re friendly, happy, and love everyone. The name Labrador comes from the Portuguese explorer, Joao Fernandes Lavrador. His last name, Lavrador, means “landowner or farmer”.


Lingo, a word which in English is similar to slang, comes from the Old Portuguese word lingoa, meaning “language”.


Mangoes are my absolute favorite fruit. Our word for mango comes from the Portuguese manga, which itself comes from the Malay language word mangga. I’ll make sure to remember that the next time I have a mango.


While potatoes have seemed like a staple of European cooking for hundreds of years, potatoes actually come from the New World. They were brought back to Europe by explorers, and were quickly integrated into European cooking. Our word for potato comes from the Portuguese batata.


When you were a kid, did you ever play with toy tanks? Then you have the Portuguese to thank for the word for tank, which is tanque.


Even though zebras are an African animal, our word for them comes from the Portuguese zebra, which has the same meaning. Zebra in Portuguese started as the feminine form of zebro, a kind of deer, and evolved into the word we know today.

Do you know of any other Portuguese loan words that didn’t make the list? Make sure to share them with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to sign up for some of our new Portuguese lessons!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in English, 10 Business English Idioms You Should Know, Double Negatives in English, or these 7 Spanish Words Used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and after she is finished learning Irish, she will definitely take a look into Portuguese, thanks to these Portuguese loan words!

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