From stunning scenery, great food and beautiful music, Brazil certainly has a lot to offer. Brazilian people are very open and informal, and communicating with them will make your trip all the more rich. If you want to make the most of your visit and immerse yourself in the Brazilian culture, it’s a good idea to learn some Brazilian greetings. The most basic of which is how to say hello in Brazilian Portuguese.
Getting a hold of the basic words of Brazilian Portuguese will help you learn the rhythm of the language and get an insight into the culture. So let’s familiarize ourselves with Brazilian greetings and learn how to say ‘hello’ in Brazilian Portuguese.
First, grab an ice-cold caipirinha (if you’re over eighteen) and join me for a little primer on Brazilian culture.
A primer on Brazilian cultural habits
Brazilians are very friendly and open people. We’ll be glad to give you directions and you will seldom run short of conversation when queuing for the ATM. We’re very informal; if you know the Brazilian word for ‘hello’, we’ll strike up a dialogue with relative ease. Keepers of close personal space, we enjoy intimacy.
Food is highly prized in Brazil, so expect a good meal in both the simplest of bars and finest of restaurants (expect large portions too). On weekends, you’ll see packed beaches and bars reflecting our lively culture. Try out a live Bossa Nova, Samba, or Brazilian Funk performance to see our culture first-hand.
If I can give you one lesson in this article, this is it: making people feel valued in Brazil and recognizing their importance, will get you a long way.
A small note on greeting and parting
When being introduced to someone in Brazil, it is very common to greet them with a kiss on each cheek (given an informal setting and that they are a member of the opposite sex). This is also the case when saying goodbye. Young children and older adults are exempt from this rule; applying the rule here will make for an awkward moment.
This custom is also not followed in more formal or business settings, where you can use a handshake instead.
How to say “hello” in Brazilian Portuguese
Oi, that’s it! That’s how you say hello in Brazilian Portuguese. This is our most common greeting.
“Oi”, pronounced “Oee” is all you need to make that moment of contact where you recognize someone’s identity and value and make a connection to something great outside yourself (Woow). It happens in a millisecond and it gives off a really friendly vibe.
You can make your greeting even friendlier by extending the sound of either the “O” or the “ee”. “Oi” as a greeting is informal by nature, but you can use it for all but the most formal of occasions. For these, use “Olá”.
Olá pronounced “Oh-la” is ‘Oi’s’ less friendly cousin. You’ll hear him mentioned whenever people want to keep some sort of distance (not that you aren’t lovely) or formality.
It’ll usually mark the greeting of potential business partners, and is often used in the services industry (telemarketers, receptionists on phone, salespeople) as a professional courtesy and show of respect. It is designed to give both the speaker and listener some space, so don’t expect it to follow up with kisses, or a hug, but with a handshake if anything at all. Use it to give yourself some space when you want to say hello in Brazilian Portuguese.
An interesting adaptation to this word is that if you elongate both vowels in, “oh” and “la”, you’re back in friendly territory. Yes, opening up the second vowel is seen as an extension of the speaker’s friendliness to the people around him. This creates a more intimate touch, hence the adaptation’s use in informal settings.
E aí?. Pronounced “ee-ah-ee”, this is similar in meaning to the English “whatsup?”. It can be used by itself as a casual greeting. Also, it is used to call someone’s attention to you and engage in conversation (in which case it is usually followed by that person’s name).
Fala (fah-lah), literally meaning “speak”. This is the king of informality, one of the most popular Brazilian greetings for young cariocas. You will often hear it mentioned on the beach, in football fields, and in nightclubs.
The logic behind it is simple. It is spoken (usually exclaimed) as a greeting, and implies that the speaker is inviting the other person to “speak”, and tell them how are things (what’s been going on, how’s their pet rabbit, etc).
Ironically, it can many times be used as a short and simple greeting. In this case, the answering part responds back “fala” and no other contact is made. So a prompt by both parties to “speak” results in no speaking at all – oh the irony.
Though it’s a great, informal way to say hi in Brazilian Portuguese, a word to the wise: DO NOT use “fala” in business meetings, and please… do not use it with your in-laws or with older adults. In the former occasion, it is seen as inappropriate and unprofessional. With older adults, it will seem disrespectful on top of inappropriate.
How to say “how are you ” in Brazilian Portuguese
These words below can follow up on your initial greeting and generally serve the purpose of asking someone how they are.
Beleza? Pronounced “Beh-leh-zah” is similar in meaning to the American expression “all good?”. It is used just like “tranquilo” (see below) and is a very common informal expression.
Use it to greet someone, as a follow-up to ask how people are, or as a way of acknowledging a statement made by someone else. This word will make you look informal and cool (unless you do something awkward afterward, in which case no word can save you).
Tranquilo? pronounced “truhn-quee-lo”.
You might have guessed this is someone asking if you are calm or tranquil, but this is actually a way to say hello in the Brazilian language, and a pretty common one. The question being asked here is if everything’s ok, if you’re alright.
This can be asked rhetorically as a greeting; in which case the same word is then repeated back in answer to the original speaker. This exchange serves the purpose of recognizing someone, of taking notice of them, and doesn’t necessarily develop into conversation (which in some cases can be a blessing).
The expression can also be used as a follow-up to a greeting to ask how someone is doing. It is best to use this expression only in the most informal occasions.
Tudo bom?, pronounced “to-dough bom” is a great way to ask if “everything is good with you”.
This expression is used throughout the whole country, can be used with anyone, and has an in-built friendly touch to it.
Como Vai, pronounced “coh-mu vie” is one of the most standard Brazilian greetings. It is formal in nature and literally means “how are you going” or “how are you”. This follow-up is usually preceded by the general greeting “Oi” or cousin “Olá”, but seldom by “E aí” or “fala”.
How to address people in Brazil
Mr., Mrs., Lordship (You won’t find this one here), Ma’am: there are many different ways of addressing people in Brazil. These will vary in popularity and use according to region, age, and circumstance amongst other factors. When saying hi in Brazilian Portuguese, remember to suit your greeting to the title.
No one will say “How’s it going your Imperial Majesty?” or “how fares the Dude?” unless they’re in a movie. Even though Brazilians are very informal and friendly, respecting people and making them feel valued has a big role in Brazilian culture.
Ok, so you know how to say “hello” in Brazilian Portuguese, and how to follow up. How do you address someone in Brazil?
This term would still be proper were you to dine in high society two hundred years ago. So you’re addressing a Brazilian minister, referring to an older adult or want to be respectful and show importance to people? Use this term.
Senhora and Senhor, pronounced “Sein-or-ah” (female) and “Sein-yo” (male), meaning “Madam/Sir”, is one of the most widely used forms of address in Brazil. It covers the whole country, and is also often used in business settings when talking to higher-ups.
This term is mostly used in formal occasions. Don’t use it to refer to people under 30s as it will seem completely out of place and might cause people to laugh at you on the bus.
Moço or Moça are the terms you wished you had used before the bus broke out in laughter, now it is too late. This term dispenses with the seniority of “Senhor/Senhora” whilst keeping some of the formality.
Pronounced “Mo-so” for male or “Mo-sah” for female, it is usually used for addressing people in the twenty to forty age range. You can also use it as a general, informal way of addressing anyone you don’t know.
You will often hear this colloquial term in bars when people desperately try to get the waiter’s attention for another drink. It means Friend (See! I said we were friendly). People also use this to casually ask for directions or information. You can use this term to informally call out anyone’s attention. Ironically, it’s most often used when you don’t know the person you’re addressing.
Brazilians are people of great disposition and goodwill. Amigo and Amiga, pronounced “Ah-mee-go” and “Ah-mee-gah” will start the conversation off well. It taps into our common humanity, our desire to be appreciated, plus note that being nice to people helps you connect to them (which is not exactly rocket science).
Please avoid using this term with older adults, since though it is a friendly one, in Brazil older adults are referred to by terms of greater formality and respect, such as “Senhora/Senhor”. It’s best not to use it for business either, since it’s too informal
One more useful expression: Com licença
Literally translated to “with permission”, Com licença is widely used when approaching someone you don’t know. Use it when asking for information or when you want to get someone’s attention in a polite way.
“Com licença”, pronounced “Kom lee-sen-sah” ensures that you don’t seem like too much of a nuisance (even if you’re asking someone to help you carry your 40kg luggage).
Brazilian Portuguese greetings for each time of the day
“Good morning” – Bom Dia
You know what a really nice thing to hear is? Bom Dia, which means good morning.
These are two important words that set human relations off to a good start. You can’t get any friendlier than wishing someone a good day ahead. In Brazil, come rain or shine, we use it. You will see people saying “bom dee-ah” cheerfully even though it might be six in the morning and you’re still stumbling towards the shower.
“Have a pleasant afternoon” – Boa Tarde
Boa Tarde, pronounced “Boah-tahgee” woke up after “Bom Dia”, He’s the lazy brother.
You will hear people say “Boa Tarde” to both wish you a good afternoon, or out of politeness before they ask you something. Salespeople also use it frequently when you walk into a store. You will also find it used right after people disengage someone they don’t know very well from conversation.
“Good night” – Boa Noite
Perhaps because the afternoon’s dwindled down a bit and the cities have become quieter, there something more formal about this expression.
Pronounced “Boah-Noychi” and meaning “good night”, the expression Boa Noite is mostly used when greeting people at restaurants or more formal events at night. When greeting friends at night, opt for a more casual greeting.
Well maybe I shouldn’t, but since I’m nice and you seem like a nice person too, I’m going to give you a small tip sheet.
Remember how I told you some words fit well together with others and some not so much? These are the most commonly used combinations of greetings and follow-ups. It’s not wrong to use them differently, however, so have fun.
Would you like to learn more than just ‘hello’ in Brazilian Portuguese? Check out some of the best apps to learn Portuguese. I hope you enjoyed this article, and that it’s been useful to you. Have fun, learn and enjoy your next visit to Brazil.