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Four Portuguese Words That English Really Needs

The Portuguese language might often be viewed as Spanish's little brother, but the truth is that Portuguese has a vibrancy all its own. In fact, Portuguese is one of the world's 10 most common languages, with over 200 million speakers. Portuguese speakers have not only shared gorgeous beaches, caipirinhas, and Piri-Piri chicken with us; they have also given names to the following four things we can't yet articulate in English.


Saudade describes a feeling of deep "missingness." It is a longing for someone or something lost, often accompanied by the pain of knowing it will never be recovered. Have you ever felt nostalgia for a memory you can never relive? Have you ever ached for a loved one far from home, or for someone dear to you who has passed away? That's saudade. Saying "I miss you" in English doesn't quite capture the melancholy and torture of saudade.


If you're not feeling saudade and instead have the luck of being next to someone you love, cafuné could be the word for you. Cafuné means to run your fingers through someone's hair. Although the word is most commonly used to describe a tender action between lovers, it can also describe running your fingers through a pet's hair. Sadly, the English "to pet" neither expresses the specificity nor the tenderness of cafuné.


Perhaps you're beginning to see why Portuguese is often described as a language of passion and romance. Apaixonar describes the action of losing yourself to love. Translated clumsily into English, it means to "impassion oneself." The Huffington Post describes apaixonar as "the word used for that period in between 'I like you' and 'I love you.'"


Some people say that desenrascanço is an ethos that is important to the heart of Portuguese culture. It means to "disentangle" or remove yourself from a tricky situation using whatever limited resources are available. English speakers may know how to get into a "pickle," but only Portuguese speakers have a word for how to get out of one.