How to Speak Portuguese Like a Carioca

In order to really blend in with the locals in Brazil, textbook Portuguese doesn’t cut it. You’ve gotta get out there and talk to people.

After spending nine months living in Rio and mingling with the locals (aka cariocas), I picked up enough Portuguese to not sound like a total gringa (well, I try anyway).

Here are a few things I’ve learned…

Shorten the Words 

For starters, in all of Brazil, you’ll find that certain words are shortened both when speaking and in informal writing or texting.

Most commonly, you’ll see and hear the following:

  • Estou –> to

Example: To em casa agora. (I’m at home now.)

  • Está –>tá

Example: Vc tá aqui? (Are you here?)

  • Estamos–>tamos

Example: Tamos terminados agora (We are finishing now.)

So you’ll (almost) never hear a Brazilian say “estou em casa agora.” The “es” is removed and it sounds just like “to em casa agora.” 

Carioca slang 

There are certain words that, if you use them, people will know you’re from Rio (or at least you’re a wannabe carioca). I’ve pulled together some of the most used carioca slang words. Just DON’T use any of these words with your future boss or mother in law.

Oh and one more thing I should mention…Being a macho country, Brazil has a pretty sexist vernacular. A lot of these words are “off limits” to women. If you’re a female and use these words, people might look at you a lil’ funny. Or they’ll tell you that “nice girls shouldn’t speak like that.”

I didn’t care. I used ’em anyway.

mermão (agglutination of “meu”+”irmão”): my brother (something you might call a friend or even a stranger…goes to show how friendly Brazilians are!)

Example: Mermão, o que vc tá fazendo agora? (My brother, what are you doing now?)

caô (mentira): a lie

Example: Rodrigo sempre fala caô/Rodrigo sempre manda uns caôs. (Rodrigo always tells lies.)

Note: In this context, mandar means “falar” or “to tell.” But it generally translates to “to send.”

coé (agglutination of “qual” + “é”/oì): hey

Example: Coé mermão! E aì? (Hey brother, what’s up?) 

bolado/a (irritado; surpreso): irritated; surprised

Example #1: To bolado porque eu não consigo te ver. (I’m upset because I can’t see you).

Example #2: Viu o gol que o botafogo fez? Fiquei bolado. (Did you see the goal that Botafogo made? I was surprised.)

na moral (bem legal): better than expected; cool

Example #1: A festa foi na moral!! (The party was better than I expected!!)

Example #2: Fica na moral, aí. (Keep it cool there.)

é nós (estamos juntos!): you can count on me! 

Example: Valeu irmão, to indo nessa! é nós! (Ok dude, I’m heading out! You can count on me!) 

já é! (ok!; vamos!): ok!; let’s go! (depending on context)

Example #1:

-Vou ligar pra gente marcar uma parada! (I’ll call you so that we can do something!) 

-Já é! (Ok!) 

Example #2:

-A gente vai na festa agora? (Are we going to the party now?)

-Já é! (Let’s go!)

ta fechado! (ta combinado!): that works!/sounds good! 


-A gente se vê na sexta? (I’ll see you on Friday?) 

-Ta fechado! (Sounds good!) 

vazar (sair): to leave

Example: To vazando agora, então a gente se fala. (I’m leaving now so we’ll speak later.)

pode crer (é verdade): Right on! Word!


-A gente esqueceu de comprar cerveja! (We forgot to buy beer!)

– Pode crer! (Right on!)

zoar (se diverter; sacanear): to have fun; to make fun of

Example #1:

-Vc zuou na festa ontém? (Did you have fun at the party yesterday?) 

-Zuei!  (Yes!)

Side Note: As shown above, Brazilians will often respond to a yes or no question with just the conjugated verb. 

Example #2: Eles estão me zoando. (They are making fun of me)

valeu (tchau/obrigada): goodbye/thank you (depending on context)

Example #1: Vou sair agora. Valeu! (I’m leaving now. Bye!)

Example #2: Agora eu entendi…valeu! (Now I understand…thank you!)

partiu! (Vamos!) let’s go!


-Partiu Lapa hoje? (Let’s go to Lapa tonight?)

-Partiu! (Let’s go!) 

rolar (acontecer): to happen

Example: O que rolou hoje?? (What happened today?)

pica das galáxias/sinistro: badass

Example: Esse cara é pica das galáxias/sinistro!! (That guy is a total badass.)

sacar/se ligar (entender): to understand/to get something

Example: Vc tá sacando/tá ligado no que eu to dizendo? (Are you following/getting what I’m saying?)

caraca (nossa!): wow!

Example: Caraca! Eu adoro seu corte de cabelo! (Wow! I love your haircut!)

moleque AKA mlk (garota/cara): a guy

Example: Aquele moleque é bem bacana.  (That guy is really cool.)

Note: Moleque is an insult in the south of Brazil and can also be an insult in Rio, depending on the way that it’s used (translating to “punk”). Use with caution! 

ta de sacanagem?! (ta de brincadeira?!) Are you kidding me?!


-O Joao pegou a minha namorada… (Joao hit my girlfriend…)

-ta de sacanagem! (Are you kidding me!)

maluco (cara): guy

Example: Os dois malucos sao altos com o cabelo castanho. (The two guys are tall with brown hair).

irado (legal): awesome

Example: O Rio é uma cidade irada. (Rio is an awesome city.)

tu (você): you (When speaking informally, many cariocas will use “tu” instead of “você. But they don’t change the conjugation…they also do this in the south of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, as well. Except in RS, it’s not slang…it’s just the way that everyone speaks to one another). 

Example: Tu foi na academia hoje? (Did you go to the gym today?)

pingado (uma xícara de café com leite): a cup of coffee with milk

Example: Me vê um pingado. (I would like a coffee.–>Literally: Let me see the coffee.)

pista (balada): nightclub

Example: Tinham muitos pessoas na pista ontém a noite? (Were there a lot of people at the club last night?)

estar na pista: to be present; to be out on the prowl (single and ready to mingle)

Example #1: Só avisa par ele que eu to na pista. (Just tell him that I’m here/I will be there.)

Example #2: Ele tem um namorada ou ta na pista? (Does he have a girlfriend or is he out on the prowl?)

tirar onda: to show off

Example #1: Ele tira onda com esse carro!  (He is showing off with that car!) 

parada (coisa): thing

Example: Eu tenho que comprar algumas paradas. (I have to buy a few things.)

So there you have it! If you master all of that gíria, you’ll be sounding like a true carioca in no time. Gringa, who now?! 

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