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While it may be easy to name a number of English words of Spanish origin, it may not be so obvious when a word comes from Spanish's sister language, Portuguese. But during the Age of Exploration, Portugal played a major part in world affairs. Here is a list of words that have come into English through Portuguese, and while most of them have something to do with New World things, there are also quite a few words that are just common, everyday things. I've done my best to exclude the many-fold words that come via Portuguese, but actually from African or Native American languages, since in that case Portuguese is only the carrier and not the origin of the word.

  • albino -- comes from albo, 'white'
  • auto-da-fé -- 'act of faith,' a public sentence during the Inquisition, or the execution of said sentence
  • bossa nova -- a Brazilian musical or dance style with melodic and harmonic complexity and less emphasis on percussion. The phrase means 'new trend' or 'new wave'
  • capitao -- a leader of a gang in parts of Africa, from capitão, 'captain'
  • caste -- a specialized social class distinguished by race, birthright, etc. This comes from the word casta (which is the same in Spanish, so claim on the word goes to one or the other or both) 'race, caste, social class'
  • cobra -- comes from cobra de capello, which means 'snake with a hood' or 'hooded snake'
  • cow tree -- a calque of palo de vaca, which is the Portuguese (and Spanish) name for a South American tree which produces a milky substance
  • emu -- a large, flightless bird, from ema 'rhea'
  • grouper -- a warm-seas game and food fish, from garupa
  • lambada -- a very sexualy charged Brazillian ballroom dance, from lambada, meaning 'beating' or 'lashing'
  • molasses -- a thick syrup made from raw sugar, from the word melaços
  • palaver -- a chat, from the Portuguese word for 'word,' palavra
  • tank -- a container for liquids or gases, from tanque, 'reservoir'