Say it in Portuguese: “gajo”, “bué” and “chunga”

Source: Desciclopédia

For this week’s post we have not one, not two, but three Portuguese words! Yes, I’m feeling generous. Today we’ll look into words which, properly combined, can be used to insult someone in a relatively soft way. You know what they say: It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

As mentioned in previous posts please remember that 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. Also, please bear in mind that, generally speaking, the Portuguese love to use words ironically – kind of like hipsters of semantics.


Noun (o gajo (m.), a gaja (f.)) – ˈɡaʒu

Just like chavalo and chulé, gajo is a word of caló* origin. While gajo is basically the equivalent of “guy” the word gaja is considered more rude than its masculine counterpart.



bu.é – ˈbwɛ

Straight from Angolan slang the word bué means “a lot”. You can use it, for example, to speak about “uma escola bué fixe” (a really cool school) or to say that you have “bué amigos” (lots of friends).

You may also come across the variant buéda or bué de , with the same meaning. In the examples above it would be “uma escola buéda / bué de fixe” and “buéda / bué de amigos”.

Bué is used mostly, but not exclusively, by the younger generations. That means that while it’s highly unlikely my grandmother will say “Eu tenho bué naperons” (“I have lots of doilies”), my friend in his mid-50’s will probably say “Tenho buéda livros desse gajo” (literally, “I have lots of books from that guy”).


Adjective – ˈʃũɡɐ

Another word of caló* origin, chunga is used when talking about something that has poor quality, including cheap / counterfeit copies of items from high-end brands (the Ardidas Vs Adidas is an example of that).

A variant of this is the word chungoso (or chungosa, in the feminine version). Both words can also be applied to people, a sort of mix of cheap and degrading with a dollop of poor taste. It’s actually more connected with choices than with actual financial capacity. No matter the circumstance, however, chunga or chungoso will always have a general negative connotation.

So, how can you apply today’s words to insult someone? Simple: you can say, for example, “Esse gajo é bué chungoso”, which can be translated to something along the lines of “That guy is really a low-life scum”. Politicians? Nasty neighbours? Your ex? Take your pick!

* Caló is a language spoken by Romani people of Portuguese and Spanish origin, which in practical terms means you can find speakers of caló outside of the Iberian Peninsula.


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