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The Story of Chegar in Portuguese and Some More for the Road

If you’re here, you’re probably curious about the verb chegar in Portuguese.

Why are you that curious?

After all, in English it’s arrive.

In French? Arriver.

In Italian? Arrivare.

In Romanian? No, not in Romanian. It’s a ajunge (and the reason… beats me.)

So, in this article, you’ll find out why we chose “chegar” in Portuguese (in Spanish it came from the same root)… and get some interesting expressions to boot.

A Bit of History

A long, long, long time ago, before you and I were born — and hey, it seems it was a long time ago — there was no Internet nor Google maps.

Long-distance travel mostly meant death. Going from Portugal to Brazil and vice versa you had to take a boat. And believe me — it was no walk in the park.

The sailors were the big people at the time. You depended on them to come and go. And it stands to reason that you tended to hear what they had to say a lot.

And when they arrived somewhere, they’d say plicamus and fold up the sail. They wanted to prevent the boat from sailing away without them.

Plicamus comes from the Latin word plicare (to fold).

You still see this word in comply, pliant, and apply, for example.

And they said ‘plicamus’ on a windy day to mean, “let’s fold this up”.

A Change was on its way.

And here’s the funny thing.

In Latin those words that have this PL cluster came down to Portuguese with an SH sound.

  • Plicare > Chegar (arrive)
  • Pluvia > Chuva (rain, “pluvial”)
  • Plenus > Cheio (full)
  • Planus > Chão (floor, “plane”, “plain”)

There were some more changes.

And the hard K sound became a hard G sound.

And if you have enough imagination and goodwill you can see that plicare becomes chigare, hence chegar

So, the sailors might have said “chegamos” to mean “let’s fold this up” but with time and patience, it came to be associated with the act of arriving at someplace.

And what does chegar mean in Brazilian Portuguese?

If you said, “to arrive”, you’re right.

But it also has other meanings.


If Bobby John won’t stop talking while his mom is try to get some food ready for dinner, she might yell at him:

  • Já chega! Enough!

And it would be readily understood.

Other examples are:

  • Acho que já chega com essa palhaçada. I think this nonsense is enough.
  • Vou trabalhar até dizer já chega. I’ll work until I say it’s enough, i.e., until I’m dead tired.
  • Você não acha que já chega não? Don’t you think it’s gone too far? (i.e., enough?)

Be Sufficient

This use is more informal.

It’s something you’d hear in a barbecue where many uninvited guests would come without saying.

  • Eu acho que essa carne não chega para todo mundo. I think this meat won’t be enough for everybody.
  • O dinheiro desse mês mal chega para as contas. The Money this month is hardly enough to pay the bills.
  • O dinheiro não chegou nem para um dia. The money didn’t even last a day.

Come closer (or go away)

You went all the way back to Florida to visit your family for a dinner. But they never let go of an old habit: huddling together on the couch to watch a talk show while eating.

But back then when you were a child you were small and everyone fitted together. Now, everyone grew up – or older – and sitting on the same couch ain’t easy.

You say:

  • Prima, chega mais para lá. Cousin, move away a bit please.

And it has this sense of “making room for someone”.

But if you’re at a party and a funny little weasel tries to kiss you or pester you, you could say:

  • Chega para lá! Back off!

But if you wanted to have a more intimate talk with them, you’d say:

  • Chega para cá, chega mais perto. Come closer.

And if you have a close, close friend, you might say:

  • O João é meu chegado. Maria is my very close friend. (no sexual innuendo)
  • A Maria é minha chegada. Maria is my intimate friend. (no sexual innuendo)
  • O Márcio é meu parente chegado. Marcio is a close relative.

And why does “arrive” mean “arrive”?

That’s because languages are like people: they part ways and live different lives.

And some of them choose a distinct style of clothing.

The part of the shore that is up here a little bit away from the sea is called in Latin ripa.

And when the boat sailed in that direction it went ad ripam (to the shore)

Later, that action of sailing in the direction of the shore became a verb: adripare.

And, when spoken by many people who had lost their teeth it became “arrivare”.

Does “arrivar” exist in Portuguese as well?

Not really.

We have arribar, but that’s archaic. You must be this old (500 y.o.) to speak it and understand it.

But Portuguese has many words that derived from it:

  • Ribanceira: a cliff or ravine.
  • Ribeira: Riverside.
  • Arriba: on top of, informal.
  • Ribeirinho: something or someone who is located on the riverside.

Of course, there might be some confusion here if you know a lot of Portuguese.

The Portuguese word “ripa” also means “clapboard”, but that has an entirely different root.

Now do you see why we have different words?

And that’s all for now. If you want to find out the conjugation of the Portuguese verb chegar, don’t worry. It’s regular and you can find the conjugation of chegar here.

Do you know any expressions with the verb “chegar”? Let me know in the comments.

Also, para quantos dias chega o seu salário mensal? Eu recebo e mal chega para uma semana 😊

And for more vocabulary-focused discussions, go here.


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