Portuguese Hits Different

I want to share one of my absolute favorite quirks of the Portuguese language with you. And I'm curious to know, do you have something similar in your own language?

In my multilingual childhood, one language stood out for its warmth and tenderness: Portuguese. That's probably why I have such a deep affection for this language, especially the Carioca Brazilian Portuguese accent from Rio de Janeiro.

Let's Make It Cute 

Now, let me introduce you to one of the most endearing aspects of the Portuguese language: we love to ‘cutify’ almosteverything! (Turns out cutify is an actual term, it means to make it cute.) And when I say everything, I mean everything – from personal names and nouns to objects and adjectives. It's an extensive list! We do it in both Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal and I find it utterly charming.

In English, this process is called "diminutives." But honestly, that sounds a bit formal and clinical to my ears. So, let's stick with ‘cutify’, or even better, terms of endearment.

Terms of Endearment

The terms of endearment we grew up hearing, especially in our mother tongue, become a part of us. They flow naturally because we either used them ourselves or lovingly heard them from friends and family. Can you think of any in your mother tongue?

Now, let me introduce you to a fascinating linguistic twist. It's not exactly a term but more of a suffix that we add in Portuguese. If you've noticed how I sign off The QUEST. Newsletter with 'beijinhos' and wondered why, allow me to explain.

Breaking It Down

So 'um beijo' (pronounced BAY-jo) in Portuguese means "a kiss." But, since we enjoy making things cute, we add -inho or -inha to words. The choice between the two depends on the gender of the base word you're 'cute-ifying.' If it's masculine, you add '-inho,' and if it's feminine, you use '-inha.' However, context matters. Sometimes, '-inho' and '-inha' are also added to words to mean 'small.' 

Now, 'um beijo' is masculine, so we add '-inho' as a suffix, making it 'um beijinho.' Does it change the meaning? Not entirely, but it adds a personal and tender touch. Literally translated, 'beijinho' now means 'little kiss' instead of just 'kiss.' It's used to refer to cheek-kisses during greetings or goodbyes and is considered less formal. So, there you have it – 'beijinhos' equals "little kisses."

But Wait, There's More!

We also love to 'cute-ify' names. Remember Ronaldhino, the famous soccer player? Well, his real name is Ronaldo, but we just had to make it cute – Ronaldinho. Everyone in the world accepts this as his name, but I wonder if people even know his real name is Ronaldo, without the -inho!

You can 'cute-ify' virtually any name, though it gets a bit trickier when the name ends with a vowel. Still, we find a way around it. For example, if your name is Ahmed, your Brazilian cute-fied name becomes Ahmedinho. In my case, Beatriz, my Brazilian cute-ified name would be Beatrizinha. But if your name is Nora, we'd turn it into Norazinha because you add a 'z' when the base word ends in a vowel.

Here's a fun one: 'fofo' (pronounced FO-foo), which means "cute" in Portuguese. Even a word as cute as 'fofo' can be made cuter. You might hear a Brazilian say 'que fofinha' or 'meu fofinho' when describing a toddler, gushing over a puppy, or expressing joy at a friend's kindness. Somehow, we even 'cute-ify' the word 'cute' itself!

Now, It's Your Turn

Can you think of any terms of endearment or diminutives commonly used in your mother tongue? Please share the cuteness! I'm always eager to discover more charming linguistic quirks from around the world.

Check out an earlier post we did on this topic here. We, in this case, is  Hedvig from Abundate Language Learning and myself. We collaborated to create the series: At A Loss For Worlds, where we dove deep into the crossroads of where language meets identity! Check it out on our Instagram

You can sign up to The QUEST. Newsletter from here!

Beijinhos xx