Portuguese Vocabulary: Same but Different – Part 1


Back in May, I wrote a two-part series called Simple Words, Double Meanings. Along the same lines, there are similar words with (sometimes) different meanings and that’s what I’d like to go over in this two-part series now.

In Brazilian Portuguese, there are words that may seem similar but exist outside the scope of synonyms. You may have learned about these in school growing up but, like me, you might have been daydreaming when the lesson was given. Below I will go through some illustrative examples of different types of words, how they’re similar and how they’re different.



First, there are words known as homonyms, which sound the same, are written the same, but have different meanings. In English, this could be the difference between stalk (part of a plant) and stalk (to follow/harass someone). With Brazilian Portuguese, some examples might be:

manga (shirt sleeve) and manga (the mango fruit)


Check out the article: Brazilian Culture – Manga and Milk

Flaschards: Fruits you must try in Brazil


grama (grass) and grama (measurement unit)

planta (vegetable) and planta (floor plan)

amo (master) and amo (from amar, to love)

rio (river) and rio (from rir, to laugh)

canto (corner) and canto (from cantar, to sing)



These are a sub-group of Homonyms, and are words where same written form is shared but the meaning and pronunciation are different (ie, bass and bass). Some examples:

dúvida (doubt, question) and duvida (from duvidar, to doubt)

sábia (wise) and sabia (from saber, to know)



We shouldn’t forget homophones, which are similar in pronunciation but can have different spelling and meaning (ie, pause and paws).

assento (seat) and acento (written accent)

cheque (check) and xeque (checkmate)

paço (palace) and passo (step)