Portuguese Language Blog

Obrigado Posted by on Nov 7, 2007 in Uncategorized

Obrigado means thank you in Portuguese.

The first word many people learn in Portuguese, obrigado is certainly extremely useful.

Since the word is the past participle of the verb obrigar, it is necessary to use the appropriate gender of the word. Males should say obrigado and females ought to use obrigada. As one might imagine, this is a common mistake among beginner Portuguese learners.

Some have speculated that the word obrigado is cognate with the Japanese word for thank you, arigatou (gozaimasu). I’ve heard this one a lot; let me save you a lot of hassle and debate: there is no such connection, though some insist that there is. As I understand it, the coincidence is really amazing; beyond sounding exactly alike, and being commonly used for the same purpose, arigatou and obrigado have even another level of commonality. Arigatou “…is based on two
Chinese characters, one meaning “difficult” and the other “to be”. In other words, I’m so indebted to you, I’m having a hard time even existing over here…” [source].

Given that obrigado literally means ‘I am obligated [to you],’ the coincidence is really spooky. One word derives from Latin (obligare) and the other from ancient Japanese, and yet the two words sound almost the same, literally mean close to the same thing which in both cases is different from the common usage of the word, which is the same for both words. Wow.

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  1. MJ:

    Actually there is another word in portuguese to say I am thankfull to you without the obligation. And this is “GRATO” for men and “GRATA” for women.
    It means “I am grateful”.

  2. Dave Eastman:

    Of course, there is no connection whatever between the Japanese expression and the Portuguese expression. However, there IS a connection between the Portuguese “muito obrigado” and the English expression “much obliged”, which is, or was, a current way of expressing “thank you” among westerners in the USA. This also comes from the Latin “obligare” through the French “obliger”.
    The cognates “obrigar” in Portuguese and “oblige” in English are absolutely the result of a normal evolution, of which we have numerous examples:
    “prato” and “plate”, “empregar” and “employ”, etc.

  3. Alex:

    Let me just say that I am brazilian (and therefore I’m a native speaker of Portuguese), and add that I’ve never thought the word arigatou could bear any resemblance to the Portuguese word obrigado. Seriously, this comparison should not be made, the two words sound very much differently.

  4. LM:

    O Sr. Dave está redondamente enganado.
    Os japoneses, antes do comércio com os portugueses, não tinham vernáculos para “MUITO OBRIGADO” ou simplesmente “OBRIGADO”.
    Aprenderam com esses a responder gentilmente a uma pergunta/oferta. Nota zero de história para o Mr. Dave.
    Tenho dito.

  5. Pamella:

    Eu quero ki ele fike em portugues tem como?

  6. Luiz Coutinho:

    What Pamella is trying to say? Eu quero que ele fique comigo? I want him to stay with me?

  7. Antonio Sergio Fraga de Cerqueira:

    Muito boas suas “dicas” em português;nossa língua é, realmente um tanto quanto dificil, mas existem outras piores…Já tentaram explicar o sentido da palavra SAUDADADE- só existente em nosso idioma e seu significado realmente maravilhoso- sentimento interno de ausência; vontade de ter de volta alguem que nos deixou; etc.etc.etc…
    Saúde, paz e felicidades a todos…
    A.S.F. de Cerqueira
    Niterói-Rio de Janeiro/BRASIL

  8. mick:

    Don’t feel bad, Teacher. I am a Brazilian too with a suffering English. Your comment are not so bad. And it was interesting too.

    Forest Mick – São Paulo – Brazil

  9. Elton:

    I would like to know the sounds of this two words
    (“difficult” and “to be”), in Chinese or in Japanese. I suppose (probably wrong, i´m no expert) that the graphical representation and the sound of the spoken word can have distinct origins, unless, of corse, these two component words sounds like “arigatou”.



    PS: Sorry for my bad english.

  10. Antoine:

    “Males should say obrigado and females ought to use obrigada. As one might imagine, this is a common mistake among beginner Portuguese learners.”

    The gender is confusing even for native (I’m Brazilian). Most common mistake is everyone say “obrigado”, even women.

    Correct is, as said, “obrigado” if you are male, “obrigada” if female, for anyone who you thank.

  11. Frô:

    The word “obrigado” is from an expression “Eu me sinto obrigado a te devolver este favor” or “I fell obligated to return you a favor”.

  12. Gui:

    Há alguns anos ouvi falar, de um professor de língua portuguesa, a mesma história da origem da palavra obrigado. Creio haver verdade nisso, visto que os portugueses também estiveram no Japão, em suas viagens ultramarinas.

  13. Dave:


    This is Dave again. With all due respect for the “folk etimology” that is rampant on this site, if you study the history of the Romance (Latin) languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Romanian, Catalan, and others with Latin influence, such as English, you will find that ALL of them have a word corresponding to the Latin verb “obligare” with past participle “obligatus”. This is the origin of the word “obrigado” in Portuguese, “obliged” in English, “obligé” in French, etc. And so, “obrigado” did NOT come from the Japanese “arigatou”. However, as to the possibility that “arigatou” may have been a borrow word into Japanese from Portuguese, I could consider that as a possibility. However, No one should simply accept this hypothesis blindly without studying the origin of “arigatou” in Japanese. Alex mentioned that the Japanese, prior to their contact with Portuguese explorers, did not have a word used to thank others. I would like to hear the documentary proof of such a statement.

    Tenho dito eu!

  14. Dave Eastman:

    A brief look on the Internet has convinced me that since the word “arigatai” (a form of “arigatou”) is documented many years before the Portuguese arrived on the scene in Japan, that it did NOT originate from the word “obrigado”. However, there is some evidence that it may have been INFLUENCED by it later.

  15. Marcio:

    I just want to say that the word “valeu” is used a lot in non-formal speaking Portuguese and in its slang meaning has the same use of “obrigado”, but you don’t need to use the appropriate gender. “Valeu” is the same for male ou female.


    Obrigado pela ajuda
    Valeu pela ajuda

    Curitiba – Brazil

  16. Sergio Teizen:

    Since everyone is interested in the etimology of some words and expression, can anybody explain to me why among latin and even anglo saxon languages, the days of the week in Portuguese have nothing to do with the sun, moon, work and free day? Monday, lunes, lunedi, lundi, Montag and suddenly: segunda-feira!!!

  17. Paterson:

    Greetings all,

    Answering Sergio’s question, as far as I know the days of the week in portuguese derive from the clerical latin calender (secunda feria, tertia feria, quarta feria, quinta feria, sexta feria) whereas the other latin languages seem to have inherited their days names from vulgar latin (lunae, martis, mercurii, iovis, veneris).. the weekend is alike in both clerical and vulgar languages, thus “sábado” and “domingo” seem a lot to their counterparts in other latin languages.
    oddly enough, though, is that “domenica” (sunday) in italian resembles with “dominica” from the clerical calender (unlike “dominicus” from vulgar latin).

    Hope this information was useful.
    (Souce: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/days2.php)

    Paterson – Salvador/BA

  18. Paterson:

    Ah, by the way, I found this page also on Omniglot.com, it’s an extensive list about thank you in portuguese: http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/obrigado.htm

    And adding to Marcio’s comment, I’d like to say that at least here in Salvador, Brazil, there’s a reply for “Valeu” which is “Nenhuma” or more colloquially “Niuma”.. which is very very informal, means something like “none” as in “you have none (or nothing) to thank me of”, close to “de nada”.

  19. fabio:

    simplismente perfeito!

  20. heliete:

    thanks all of you for this information,I am Brazilian too but 35 yrs in USA,reading about portugues words make my heart skip a bit,learning never ends.

  21. neshinho:

    num entendi nada alguém por favor pode me explicar?


    You forgot to mention the gender & number variations on “obrigado”:


  23. busquefacil:

    olá gostei do bate papo e estarei colocando em meu site só que a vesão em português é dificl de achar ou não tem mesmo.mas mesmo assim obrigado.

  24. Tancredo Sena:

    Obrigado. O sistema está ótimo para o meu IBM Thinkpad T-23.


  25. Alcides C. Tavares:

    Para A.S.F. de Cerqueira – Niterói, RJ:
    Prezado Antônio Sergio:
    Saudade não existe só em nosso idioma. Os dicionarios Michaelis e o http://www.wordreference.com
    registram esta palavra em espanhol, só que eles não a usam, preferem: soledad, nostalgia e añoranza.

  26. Gabriela:

    Dear Donnell,

    I’m a native Portuguse speaker and translator. I stopped by your page when I was searching for a term on the internet. I thought your conclusion very interesting, although I am not acquainted with the origin of the word.

    Very interesting!


    Gabriela Galvao
    English/Swedish/Portuguese Translator

  27. gedeon cardoso de jesus:

    E muito bom

  28. Ramile:

    Olá Gabriela Galvão,
    Gostei muito da sua página na rede mundial de computadores. Como professora de Língua Portuguesa fico feliz ao ver que ainda há pessoas que dignificam essa nação através da cultura e do saber.
    Quanto aos comentários sobre a palavra “obrigado/a” se significa “thank you” ou “arigatô” ou “merci” ou “gracias”…o importante é que a língua tem sido o fator mais importante, na atualidade, para unir os povos e encurtar as distâncias.
    Um forte abraço,

    Ramile-Minas Gerais

  29. Geraldo Melo:

    The gender of THINGS is possibly one of the most difficult aspects of portuguese language learning. To an english speaking person will not be easy to discover that a finger (o dedo) is masculine and a hand (a mão) is feminine. As the ceiling (o teto) and the wall (a parede), or the night (a noite) and the day (o dia). Not easy. Yes. But, for us, is not easy either to understand the disconnection in english between spelling and pronunciation, like in hughes, through, thought, thou.
    Can anyone teach me the correct pronunciation for CARIBEAN? Is it CARAIBÍAN (as in UK) or CARÍBIAN (as in the USA)? Melhor chamá-lo mesmo de Caribe…

  30. Sergio Teizen:

    Thank you veru much, Paterson from Salvador! Obrigado!

  31. antonio militao de lima:

    hi, my dear people of transparent language.
    i also like to look for the origin of the words. i am very curious about etymology.
    i loved all that my unknown friends wrote about
    origin of words obrigado, arigatow, saudade and the names of the days of the week in portuguese, which are characteristically peculiar to the portuguese language.
    this is very interesting. i agree to all of you. i thought very nice what you wrote about those special words in portuguese language.
    very funny.
    i live in fortaleza, ceara, brazil, south-america.
    i embrace you.
    antonio lima.


    I agree with Dave that we need a documentary proof of such a statement concerning to the origin of OBRIGADO. And I´d like to say to Alex that the words don’t sound as different as he sees it. Just try to change the D to T and you´ll have OBRIGATO which sounds very close to ARIGATO.

  33. Carlos Eduardo Gomes:

    Even OBRIGATO don’t sounds like ARIGATO.
    Because the stress marks.
    I don’t know how do pronounce this word ARIGATO and OBRIGADO for an american guy.
    Maybe because the american’s accent, makes these two words seemed.
    But for a Brazilian’s accent, we use to put a accent on the word.
    So, there no way to these two words sound like each other…

  34. Francisco:

    @ Alcides

    Caro, sobre a palavra saudade, creio que você se engana. “Soledad” significa “solidão”. E nostalgia, que também existe em português, embora com outra pronúncia, não é sinonimo de saudade. Não mesmo. Quanto a “añoranza”, o sentido é mais próximo – ainda assim, não é exatamente o mesmo. A não ser, é claro, que você resuma a riqueza semântica de “saudade” igualando o termo a “sentir falta de” ou a “estar nostágico”, que são os significados de “añoranza” – palavra que, inclusive, é referente não a pessoas, coisas, épocas, sentimentos, sensações etc, mas apenas a lugares, como a expressão “mal de la tierra”.

  35. Doraci Kalvon:

    I teach Portuguese for foreigners and the biggest trouble for them is not the word “obrigado” but the answers they can get to it. Usually it’s taught that they are supposed to expect expressions like “de nada” “não há de quê” “às ordens” but what they really get from people is “Imagina” “imagina viu” “esquece” “deixa prá lá” “Liga não, meu Rei ” ” não esquenta” and many others. I’ve seen funny experiences.

  36. Luiz Wagner:

    I am Brazilian, lived in Japan and I am studying Japanese language since then. I agree with Mr. Dave: looking on the internet I found that the word arigatashi (modern arigatai), from which the word arigato derives, appears in the oldest literature of the 8th century. Even the usage of the word arigato begins to appear during the early 15th century, many years before Portuguese ships reached Japan for the first time during the 16th century, in 1543.

  37. Adhemar Testa:

    If you go to the Japanese language specialists, they can tell us that their language did not have a word to say thank you before the Portughese arrived to Japan.The Japanese adopted arigatô as a similar sound of the Portughese ‘obrigado’.In the same way, it was not usual to fry food in Japan before about 1580.The Portughese ‘teach’ how to do it, and we have today a ‘Japanese’ food call ‘Tempura’ , a deformation of the Portughese word ‘Tempero’ / Temperar = seasoning, an usual Portughese use before frying

  38. José Isidoro:

    Um bom comentário para a palavra OBRIGADO ou OBRIGADA. Acho muito interessante quando outras pessoas de outros países se interessam pelo português principalmente do BRASIL, como dizem os americanos, “BRAZIL”.
    When we hear Thank you, we answer: ‘ you are welcome, anytime, don’t mention it etc’. In portuguese we answer : ‘ De Nada ‘ DE NADA and it’s enough.
    And don’t forget: ” OBRIGADO ” ” DE NADA ”

  39. Pete:

    Several things…. The correct pronunciation for Caribian is two ways in America. Care ib e an…. kurib ean….. just depends on how you prefer to say it.

    Monday… moonsday
    Tuesday… Tiew’s day
    Wednesday…. Woodens day
    Thursday…. Thor’s day
    Friday….. Fri’s day
    Saturday… Satruns day
    Sunday…. Suns day

    These days were named after nordic and pagan gods….. Tiew… Wooden…. Thor.. and Fri… are all Anglo-Nordic gods, familiar to the Picts and Wens… or Germans in general. Moon, Saturn and Sun are all astronomical and planetary objects…. obviously….. The Romans adopted these terms for the days, under the reign of Caligula or “little boots”….. He grew up in Germania, and under his short rule a new calendar was made…. He named the days of the week.

  40. Personal Traveller:

    Does anyone investigate IF the Japanese languages HAS the word [Chinese??] before the 1500, when the Portuguese arrived??

  41. helen cohen lafsar see the world news:

    see what is in the major newspapers, every hour world news, see the link

  42. Portuguese Gifts:

    Thanks for spreading the word OBRIGADO. Thank you, obrigado. We have some portuguese gifts and souvenirs in our website, pay us a visit

    Thank you and Obrigado

  43. gesele:

    hey, um.. this is your follower from south korea.
    I have a question.
    do you know the song “Desde que o samba e samba” ,right? BUT i’m studying portugues now and i’m learning about “Subjuntivo”.

    is it right “Desde que o samba “seja” samba?”

    could you tell me the response for me plz?

    Obrigada muito!

  44. Franco:

    im brazilian and i agree with Doraci Kalvon,people that say “liga não meu rei” are funny,mostly because its a ridiculous slang thankful expression from northeastern Brazil that means “dont care about it,my king” i mean,wtf why just not say “de nada” = “its nothing” or “tudo bem” = “its all good”,and you should tell ur students that there are many lookalike words between portuguese and english,that could easily associate,like “imagina” which means “imagine it” and comes from the verb “imaginar” which is “to imagine”.

  45. Franco:

    hi this if for Gesele,umm,its kinda hard to explain but you could think like this.”desde que o samba é samba” means “since samba is/has been samba”, ok now,subjuntivo is a form inside our language that conjugates the verb,in a way to imply a condition,so “desde que o samba seja samba” is right,it means that samba HAS to be samba,therefore saying “desde que o samba é samba” and “desde que o samba seja samba” are not the same exact thing,but both are right depending on the circunstances.

    Muito obrigado pela atenção 😉

  46. Sharon:

    Please translate:
    obrigado vc tem ft?

    Thank you,

  47. Márcio Lima:

    Em Minas nós dizemos “Valeu” em lugar de obrigado e respondemos “Qualé = qual é” em lugar de “De nada”. E eu falo 8 linguas e asseguro que “arigatou” realmente vem de “obrigado”. A razões disso estão explicadas em comentários anteriores