4 Slang Words You’ll Need to Know Even in the Workplace

4 Slang Words You'll Need to Know Even in the Workplace - Brazilian Portuguese

Slang words are not usually recommended in the workplace, particularly if you are learning the language and run the risk of using them in an embarrassing or improper way.

Some expressions, however, outgrow their status as mere slang and become an essential part of a culture’s vocabulary – sometimes even in professional situations. Some slang terms are important to be learned because they contextualize a whole situation. Let’s take a look at some of these expressions that can come up often in the workplace.

Abrir o jogo

Abrir o jogo translates literally to “open up the game,” but is often employed as an expression that refers to telling the truth or detailing an entire situation. It can be used when talking about internal business situations or when dealing with clients:

“Vamos abrir o jogo sobre as negociações com o concorrente.”

“Let’s be transparent about the negotiations with the competitors.”


Pagar mico

Embarrassing situations happen, and that’s when the expression pagar mico comes in handy. Literally translated to “pay the monkey,” this can be a pretty baffling expression to understand. Its origins come from a children’s card game where each card had an animal on it. Both male and female animals were represented in the game, except for the monkey, who was left without a pair. Part of the strategy was to get rid of the monkey card, or pay it out. Whoever was left with the unpaired monkey card at the end lost the game. What was known as a bad situation – losing the game – evolved into an embarrassing situation. Nowadays the expression pagar mico refers to embarrassing situations.

“Está tudo preparado para o evento de amanhã? Não podemos pagar mico em frente dos clientes!”

“Is everything ready for tomorrow’s event? We can’t be embarrassed in front of the clients!”


Baixar a bola

Like many things in Brazil, baixar a bola is an expression that came from the country’s love for soccer. It translates to “bring the ball down” and means to calm down, and it makes perfect sense: in soccer, when the game is not going well and players are desperate, they tend to play with the ball constantly in the air, kicking upwards. To bring the ball down to the floor signals calmness and cool-headedness.

“Não precisa se afobar! Vamos baixar a bola e resolver essa situação.”

“There’s no need to get desperate. Let’s calm down and remedy the situation.”

Baixar a bola also means to lower expectations.

“Você está otimista demais com o projeto. É melhor baixar a bola.”

“You are too optimistic about the project. You should lower your expectations.”



Cabeça-dura translates to hard-headed and, like in English, refers to someone who is particularly stubborn.

“Ela é uma excelente profissional, mas às vezes pode ser um pouco cabeça-dura.”

“She’s an excellent professional, although sometimes she can be a bit hard-headed”


Learning some slang terms can be important for your advancement as a professional, particularly in a country where the informal rules. So study up and don’t stay behind!

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