Different words in Spanish and Portuguese

First release , plus many later additions


Disregarding pronunciation differences, Spanish and Portuguese are very similar languages. A large proportion of the vocabulary, including conjugated verbs, of each language can be derived from the other one by simple transformation rules.

However, quite a few often-used words are different. I am compiling a list of them here.

Lexical differences

The idea is to include only words with a different etymological background here. Some words seem very different at the surface, but the difference can easily be explained by transformations in the course of each language's history.

Next is a list of words that are not included, and the reason why not.

Spanish word Portuguese word Reason for non-inclusion
mujermulherSpanish j corresponds regularly to Portuguese lh
hijo, hilo, hablar, hacerfilho, fio, falar, fazer Spanish h corresponds regularly to Portuguese (and Latin!) f
solo, hilosó, fioPortuguese loss of l between vowels
cena, tenerceia, terPortuguese loss of n between vowels
solanosoãoPortuguese loss of l between vowels;
n between a and o is lost but nasalises the diphthong
playapraiaLatin pl regularly developed into pr in Portuguese
llorarchorarLatin pl regularly developed into ll in Spanish, and into ch in Portuguese

So here are the words that are included:

Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
todavía, aúnaindastill, yet
pueblo, aldeaaldeiavillage
cifra, guarismo, dígitoalgarismodigit
redondeoarredondamentorounding (of numbers)
aduanaalfândega customs (at port of entry)
desayunopequeno almoçobreakfast
balsajangada, balsaraft
columpio, mecedorbaloiço, balouçoswing (Italian: altalena)
mariposaborboleta, mariposabutterfly
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
roblecarvalho (roble, alvarinho)oak
temprano, prontocedoearly
chá 8tea
olorcheiro, odorsmell
bailardançarto dance
enfermo, malodoentesick, ill
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
dedondedondefrom where
olvidaresquecerto forget
cuchillo faca knife
cuchara, cucharilla colher spoon
cerrarfechar, cerrarclose
quedar ficarto stay, to remain
caercairto fall
caídaquedafall (the act of falling)
pollo frango chicken
botellagarrafa, botelhabottle
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
amaramarto love
quererquererto want
querergostar deto love
gustargostar deto love, to like; different usage 1 5
guitarraviola 2, violão 3 4 Spanish guitar
guitarra portuguesaguitarraPortuguese guitar
cenarjantarhave a late dinner
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
subjuntivo (conjuntivo)conjuntivo (subjuntivo)subjunctive mode
subastahasta, leilãoauction
recordar, acordarlembrar, recordarremind, remember
despertaracordarwake up
basuralixowaste, garbage
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
lejoslongefar away
cercapertoclose by
morir (single r; ‑ir verb) morrer (double r; ‑er verb) die
morarmorarlive, dwell
vivir (-ir verb)viver (-er verb)live
talleroficina(car) workshop, garage
oficina, escritorio escritóriooffice
cubiertotalhercutlery, flatware, silverware, dining utensils
carniceríatalhobutcher, butcher’s
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
anteayeranteontemthe day before yesterday
ayer por la mañanaontem de manhãyesterday morning
anoche, ayer por la nocheontem à noiteyesterday evening
por la nocheà noite 6in the evening
por la nochede noite (à noite) 6at night
por la mañanade manhãin the morning
mañana por la mañanaamanhã de manhãtomorrow morning
pasado mañanadepois de amanhãthe day after tomorrow
albahaca manjericãobasil
pasta massa pasta
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
cambiar mudar 5 to change
niñomeninochild, boy
niño, niñacriançachild
graciasobrigadothank you
gafas, anteojosóculosglasses
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
escenario, tabladopalcostage (in a theater)
quizá, quizáspode sermaybe, perhaps
talveztal vezmaybe, perhaps
valepoisright, OK
aunqueporém, contudo, no entanto, etc. however
sin embargoporém, contudo, no entanto, etc. however
regaloprendagift, present
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning
buscarprocurar, encontrar(try to) find
ir por, buscar, sacarbuscargo get
encontrar, hallarencontrarfind
pensaracharhave the opinion
habitación, dormitorioquarto(hotel)room
vivienda, casa, moradahabitaçãohouse
teléfonotelefone telephone; same origin, almost the same word, but different stress
sopa, potajesopa 7soup
haber + participioter + particípio (see grammars and my article)
tener ganaster vontadeto feel like (doing)
Spanish word Portuguese word English meaning

Note 1:

en I love you = pt Gosto de ti

en I like you = es (Tú) me gustas a mí, (tú) me gustas, me gustas tú.

Confer this song text by Manu Chao.

Note 2:

Confer the es vihuela, which is clearly cognate with pt viola, and denotes an old guitar-like shaped instrument.

Note 3:

Violão is more likely to be used in pt-BR than in pt-PT.

Note 4:

Note that in pt-BR violinista is a violin player, but a violonista is a guitar player.

Note 5:

In many cases, both words do exist in both languages, but the frequency of use and the shades of meaning are rather different.

Note 6:

This difference between Portuguese ‘à noite’ and ‘de noite’ is rather complicated, as becomes clear from this discussion, which also involves Galician and possible interference from Spanish among bilingual speakers of that language.

From one of the clearer contributions there I gathered this:

À noite se opõe geralmente a de manhã.
De noite se opõe geralmente a de dia.

So ‘à noite’ stresses the difference with ‘in the morning’, while ‘denoite’ stresses the difference with ‘by day, during the daytime’.

Note 7:

The word ‘potagem’ exists in Brazilian Portuguese, but I do not find it in dictionaries from Portugal.

Note 8:

The national Portuguese TV station RTP has a very nice weekly program about the Portuguese language, called Cuidado com a Língua (be careful with the language). In the Nov 17, 2008 edition, it is explained why Spanish has “té” (cf. English tea, Dutch thee, French thé, etc.) but Portuguese has “chá”: Portuguese took the word from Mandarin Chinese, the other languages have it from Fukien (other sources say Amoy), which is probably a form of Min Nan. See also Min Nan in Wikipedia.

I have a feeling there must be many more such words, so suggestions and corrections will be appreciated.

See also these false friends.

See also this list of Galician-Portuguese words.

10 August 2015:
Fernando Venâncio compiled a list of links to other such lists of false friends between Spanish and Portuguese. It also mentions studies about the subject.

Colours: Neutral Weird No preference Reload