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Friendships and Friend in Portuguese — How Brazilians See It

friend in Portuguese is a versatile word

You might want to talk with your Brazilian friend in Portuguese. In that case, having a good working knowledge of the language is good.

But, you know what would be even better?

Knowing how Brazilians see friendships, or “amizades”.

After all, if you want to say friend in Portuguese you know how to do it — you might even have learned that from “amigo” in Spanish.

But how do Brazilians see friendships? And how does it influence the way we talk about that?

Amigos, Amigos, Negócios à Parte

“Friends are friends, and business is business.”

That’s roughly what the title for this section means.

And although many Brazilians resort to this saying on a daily basis — especially when denying favors — they don’t tend to see that relationship as clear-cut as in the saying.

  • O José não é meu amigo, é só um conhecido. José’s not my friend, he’s just an acquaintance.

But we do have some distinctions.

In the example above, you see the main distinction we make in our daily dealings — acquaintances and friends.

And we usually see the same difference when we talk about people we work with.

  • Se uma pessoa trabalha com você, ela é sua colega. If someone works with you, they are your colleague.

But even though in private we use the proper terminology to talk about someone we barely know, or people we work with, we tend to use the word “amigo” quite liberally.

  • Amigos mais próximos, íntimos mesmo, só tenho dois. O resto todo é de colega e conhecido. Closer friends, really intimate, I have only two. All the rest is [comprised of] colleagues and acquaintances.
  • Ei, amigo! Você pode me dar uma informação? Hey, friend! Can you give me a piece of information?

In the second example above, you see a common way we use to address other people whose name we don’t know.

And it’s not quite impolite depending on the tone of voice you use.

One funny thing you’ll notice is that using the word “amiga” to address a woman — perhaps you want to draw her attention and ask for some information — as I was saying, using that word to address a woman isn’t common.

Other Ways to Use Friend in Portuguese Avoiding the Word “amigo”

You know when you stumble upon someone you’ve met a long time ago but whose name you don’t remember?

You might want to try and give her all cues to let her know that you don’t remember her name so she might drop it in the conversation… But she never notices.

That’s awkward!

We don’t have that problem in Brazil.

If you don’t know someone’s name but anyway you want to give them the impression of closeness and intimacy, you can use the following formulas to greet them.

(And although I say this is a formula for greeting, you can also use the words where you would normally use the person’s name.)

  • Fala, amigão. Hey, big friend!
  • Fala, meu chapa. Hey my pal.
  • Fala, queridão. Hey my dear.
  • E aí, parceiro. Beleza? Hey partner. What’s up?
  • Tudo bem, meu camarada? How are you, my comrade?
  • E aí, irmão, beleza? Hey bro, how are you?
  • E aí, mano. Tudo joia? Hey, bro. What’s up?

And this last one — mano — is way more common in São Paulo and among younger people across the board.

In other states — like in my home state — it changes (in Ceará, we say “ei, má” from “ei, macho”, or “hey, male”.)

Although some women will resort to the formulas I gave you above, most of the time women prefer “softer” expressions. Things like “my sweetie, my darling, my dear”.

  • Oi, minha flor, vai tudo bem? Hello, my flower, how are you?
  • Oi, coração ❤ ! Tudo em cima? Hi, my heart! Is everything all right?
  • Oi, meu anjo! O produto já está pronto? Hi, my angel. Is the product ready?

And one character in this video makes use of all expressions he knows because he’s a bit forgetful. Some people say this sketch’s hysterical — it’s up to you to decide.

Addressing Your True Friends in Portuguese

Something we do like in Brazil is knowing everything about our friends.

That might become fodder for gossip but —

Anyway, you might want to describe your friends to Brazilians.

Let’s say you want to introduce a good friend. How would you go about that?

  • Deixa eu te apresentar um amigão meu. Let me introduce to you a big friend of mine.
  • Ela é uma verdadeira amigona. She’s a true big friend.
  • O José aqui é meu chapa. José here is my pal.

ATTENTION: o chapa – “pal”; a chapa – dentures.

Onde está a minha chapa? Eu tenho certeza de que a deixei na mesa. Where are my dentures? I’m sure I’ve left them on the table.

When French was the language in vogue, people used to say “mon ami(e)” — that was chic.

And nowadays English is the dominant foreign language in my country. So using English sometimes adds that veneer of sophistication to your conversation.

  • A Maria é minha best. Maria is my best friend.

Some Idioms Featuring Friend in Portuguese

And because we tend to mix friendships in Brazil with acquaintanceship and perhaps “colleague-ship”, “amigo” is an integral part of many idioms.

Amigo do peito. A friend from the heart.

Actually, it’s a “friend from the chest”.

But you know, the heart lies in the chest — hopefully — and because the heart represents emotion, we use the chest to represent the heart… which in its turn represents emotion.

It’s a convoluted explanation to say it means “a great friend”.

  • Quero muito bem à Marta. Ela é minha amiga do peito. I really like Martha. She is my friend from the heart.

Amigo de longa data (Longtime friend) or Amigo velho de guerra (“Old friend from war”).

The phrase “de longa data” can be used in other situations as well.

But the emphasis here goes to the second expression, “amigo velho de guerra”.

If you describe someone with that expression you mean that that person is not only a longtime friend but a dear friend as well.

  • Conheço a Marta há cinquenta anos. Somos amigas velhas de guerra. I’ve known Marta for fifty years. We are longtime friends.

When Friends Mean More Than Friends in Portuguese

Old aunt Ida doesn’t want to be impolite.

She’s talking to her niece about a young man her niece was with. Aunt Ida suspects he is her niece’s boyfriend but she thinks it would be impolite to say it that clearly.

She asks then:

  • Cadê aquele seu amigo, Paula? Where’s that friend of yours, Paula?

But if she had no qualms about asking that question she might say:

  • Quer dizer que ele é seu amiguinho, né? You mean he is your boyfriend, right?

But if Aunt Ida had used with a kid the same word she just used with her grown-up niece (“amiguinho”), the meaning would be “little friend”, not boyfriend.

  • Cadê seus amiguinhos, Fernandinho? Where your little friends, Fernando?

And this habit of mixing friendship and amorous relationships has a long-standing tradition.

It comes from the Portuguese — when kings had a lot of time in their hands and nothing to do that would compose songs and poems called “Cantigas”.

And the “Cantigas de Amigo” were popular.

They were written from the point of view of a woman — whatever the king thought was a woman — and she would usually talk about her boyfriend or loved one.

But the word she would use to refer to him would always be “amigo”.

You can listen to one such song in the video below. It uses old Portuguese, so if you don’t understand much it’s not your fault.

One More for the Road

And the word “amigado” is used over talk about two people who live together but are not married.

  • Eles dois estão amigados. Coisa mais feia. Those two are cohabitating. Such a shameful thing.

That’s slightly derogatory.

And a song most Brazilians older than 25 know and can sing is Roberto Carlos’s hit, Amigo. It has some idioms and phrases we use when talking about friends.

And Canção da América, a song about friendship, a song that makes me cry whenever I listen to it.


Many of my students tell me that friendships seem easier in Brazil than in their countries.

Perhaps because Brazilians are more open, warmer… Something gives them that impression.

But as a Brazilian I can tell you friendships here are quite hard and confusing.

People tend to think that when you use the word “amigo” to refer to that person they are entitled to being part of your life in a way you might not want.

How would you describe friendships in your country? How about your friendships? Do you have a lot of friends or can you count them in the fingers of one hand?

Let me know in the comments section below.

And for more vocabulary help, go to our vocabulary section.