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Socially acceptable adjectives Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in Culture, Learning, Vocabulary

Last week we learned how to describe people em Português. Have you ever had to stop and think how to describe someone in a way that is not rude or offensive? Here is some vocabulary to help you with that.



Since there are some terms in Portuguese which are considered the right ones when referring to people especially when it comes to skin colour and sexual orientation, it is worthwhile to take a look and learn the socially accepted ones.

In English it is common for people to use the work black, which translates as preto in Portuguese. This is NOT the right term to use, instead, we use the word negro. Example:

  • Carlos é um senhor alto, negro, de cabelos brancos que mora no meu prédio. Carlos is a tall old black man with grey hair who lives in my building.

In Brazilian Portuguese the terms to refer to people’s colour are:

  • Branco: white
  • Negro: black
  • Moreno/pardo/mulato: brown colour (the most common in Brazil)
  • Índio: Brazilian natives


  • Meu pai é negro e minha mãe é índia. Eu sou negro, mas tenho traços do índio como a minha mãe. My father is black and my mother is native Brazilian. I am black but I have native Brazilian features like my mother.

The correct words to use when talking about people’s sexual orientation in Brazil have been a big deal as members from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) community are trying to get journalists and people in general to use these words so as not to show any prejudice. There are still many Brazilians who are not familiar with the correct terms and still use the wrong ones, which can often cause embarrassment, especially for the media.

  • Orientação sexual: sexual orientation
  • LGBT: this acronym is used to refer to a group of people and it stands for lésbicas, gays, bissexuais, trangêneros.
  • Homosexualidade: homosexuality


  • André me perguntou qual é a minha orientação sexual. Eu disse a ele que sou lésbica. Da forma que eu vejo, homosexualidade deve ser tatado com naturalidade. André asked me what my sexual orientation was. I told him I was a lesbian. The way I see it homosexuality should be dealt with naturally.

Culturally Brazilians tend to be patient and accept mistakes made by people who are trying to learn the language. In case you find yourself in a situation where you are not sure about which term you should use, asking your friends and people you know is not a big deal and most people would be happy to help.

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  1. Joy:

    “…learn… Should be “learnED”. And “…question mark when asked by Andre…” Thank you. jes

    • Ester:

      @Joy Hi Jes. Thanks for the tip! There is no question mark needed, it is not a question, it is a statement. I corrected the -ed, though. Thanks! 🙂