Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Portuguese Loanwords: Part 1

In the past, we've looked at loanwords from languages such as Chinese and Yiddish that have made it into the English language. This week we'll be taking a look at some of our favorite Portuguese loanwords, starting with a look at some animal and music terminology.

Bossa nova - This Brazilian style of music is a mixture of samba and jazz that developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Its Portuguese name translates to mean "new trend".

An American bison, commonly known as a buffalo.
Buffalo - These large animals get their name from the Portuguese word bufalo. Earlier names for the animal include the Latin term bufalus and Greek boubalos. The name is applied to several distantly related animals across the world including the American bison, the Asian water buffalo, and the African buffalo.

Cobra - These terrifying snakes were originally named cobra de capelo in Portuguese meaning "snake with hood", due to the expandable skin around its neck. Its name made it into English through the Portuguese colonies in India.

Emu - While the exact etymology of the name for this large Australian bird remains unknown, some believe that it came from the Portuguese term ema, which was used by Portuguese explorers to describe a related bird found in New Guinea and Australia known as the cassowary.

Grouper - These big-mouthed fish get their name from the Portuguese word garoupa, which likely came from an indigenous language of South America such as TupĂ­.

Samba - Internationally recognized as a symbol of Brazilian culture, samba is both a dance and a musical genre with Brazilian and African roots. There are several theories as to the historical origins of the word, including one that suggests it came to Portuguese from the word semba in an unknown African language.

On Friday, we'll conclude our look at Portuguese loanwords with some food terminology.