Say it in Portuguese: “pachorra” and “matulão”

For this week’s post on Portuguese slang we’ll be focusing on words that can be used to describe people: one is a personality trait and the other is a physical trait.

As mentioned before, please remember these words are used only in informal situations. Beware however, because some may have different meanings in different parts of the country and, particularly in cities, some words may have an added meaning stemming from their use in Brazilian Portuguese.


Feminine noun (a pachorra)

pa.chor.ra — pɐˈʃoʀɐ

Pachorra means patience – a lot of it. It’s usually used when your patience is reaching its limit.

You can say, for example, “Já não há pachorra!” (literally: There’s no more patience!) or “Não tenho pachorra [para isto]” (literally: I have no patience [for this]). If, for example, you’re dealing with a particularly annoying person or situation you can say “Que pachorra!”. 

You can also use the word pachorrento when referring to someone who is usually very calm, laid back and/or does things slowly. Example: “O Zé é um tipo muito pachorrento.” (Zé is such a laid back guy).


Noun (o matulão (m.), a matulona (f.))

ma.tu.lão – mɐtuˈlɐ̃w̃

Matulão means a big, strong man. Your cute Portuguese vizinha (neighbour) *may* call you matulão if your abs are well chiseled, but that’s not how we usually apply the word.

“Esse rapaz está um matulão!” (meaning, “this boy is big and strong”) means that a boy grew up a lot and looks healthy… the kind of thing your elderly vizinha will likely say about a child she hasn’t seen in a long time and that is the main use for the word.

It also occurred to me that some of my readers living in Portugal’s countryside may eventually come across a local hunk with strong arms that can help them with several difficult chores. Talk about a handy man, right? In that context it will be appropriate to say to your vizinha (young or old): “Ele é um matulão!”, meaning he’s a big, strong guy.

The female version, matulona, can be used in the same main sense as the masculine version of the word, but when applied to an adult woman it means she’s seen as being tall, curvaceous and beautiful.


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