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How to Improve Your European Portuguese Vocabulary Quickly and Effectively

Sooner or later, most language learners wonder how they can improve their vocabulary. For example, a quick search for “Portuguese vocabulary” brings you dozens of results for word lists with their English translations. 

But does reading word lists over and over again really help you memorize new words? Isn’t there a better, faster way to learn and remember more words with less effort?

Yes, there is! And today is the day you will learn it. Continue reading to look into how you can expand your European Portuguese (or any other language) vocabulary quickly. Understand what techniques you can use to help your brain associate images with names and movements of the mouth. 

This way, you will cover speaking, reading, and writing in one go. Get a resumed guide of hundreds of Portuguese words you can use every day. Additionally, explore extra resources that will help you learn how to write and pronounce these words like the natives do. Bora lá! (Let’s roll!)

How to Learn Basic Portuguese Phrases and Words

How are your basic Portuguese skills? Would you like to expand your knowledge and become fluent? Come and discover The Journey! This incredible program with short lessons goes beyond the basics. Through science-proven techniques, it teaches grammar, sounds, and culture. Start exploring the Portuguese language and get a 7-day free trial!

Expanding your European Portuguese vocabulary is about learning and using new words
Expanding your European Portuguese vocabulary is about learning and using new words

Expanding your vocabulary is all about learning and using new words. You can apply specific techniques to facilitate this process, boost your long-term memory, and help with pronunciation. Consider these three examples.


Shadowing is a powerful technique that polyglots swear by to enhance vocabulary acquisition. It consists of listening to spoken language and simultaneously repeating it aloud. This way, the method improves pronunciation and fluency. When used repeatedly, it will help you internalize new words and phrases, integrating them into your active vocabulary. 

Shadowing also exposes you to natural language patterns and colloquial expressions. Hence, it enhances your understanding of the context and usage of the new words. 


The science behind the flashcard method is successful relearning. This technique improves long-term memory by promoting active recall. Flashcards with images or written words pair a word in the target language with its translation or definition. 

A vocabulary notebook is one of the best techniques to expand your Portuguese vocabulary
A vocabulary notebook is one of the best techniques to expand your Portuguese vocabulary

Thus, it reinforces connections between words and meanings. By using flashcards regularly, you strengthen the memory of the words. Then, it becomes easier for your brain to recollect it when needed. 

Write a Vocabulary Notebook

Despite seeming outdated, a vocabulary notebook is one of the best tools you can create for yourself as a language learner. By actively writing down new words encountered during study sessions, you engage in cognitive processing that reinforces memory retention. 

Besides, the act of writing aids in encoding information, making it easier to recall later. The 4 steps to create the best Vocabulary Notebook are: 

  • Semantic chunking
  • Writing every word
  • Using the Target-Base-Target technique
  • Building connection quadrants

Essential Portuguese Words for Everyday Conversations

You have all the tools you need to expand your vocabulary and start learning Portuguese. So, let’s put them to good use! Start by exploring the most common Portuguese words and learn their pronunciation. Learn about essential, practical, and cultural terms you can apply in everyday life. 

Additionally, how about digging deeper into Portuguese and finally reaching your language-learning goals? The Journey can help you accomplish all that and more! With this unique European Portuguese program, you will speak Portuguese confidently and naturally. 

Learn European Portuguese the Instinctive Way!

For the last decade, we’ve been working on putting together the best possible European Portuguese course. After much research, feedback from our students, and several iterations, we think we’ve got it! 😉

At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

Greetings and Common Phrases

The first words to learn in a new language are generally greetings. Like in your native language, these terms allow you to start conversations and help you start speaking Portuguese from day one. You can find some of these words in Basic Portuguese for complete beginners – your first lesson!

Basic Portuguese for complete beginners – your first lesson!

Greetings (Cumprimentos)

  • Olá (Hello)
  • Bom dia (Good morning)
  • Boa tarde (Good afternoon)
  • Boa noite (Good evening/night)
  • Como está? (How are you?)
  • Estou bem, obrigado/a (I’m fine, thank you)
  • E tu/você? (And you?)
  • Até logo (See you later)
  • Até amanhã (See you tomorrow)
  • Até breve (See you soon)
  • Tchau (Bye)
  • Tenha um bom dia (Have a nice day)
  • Tenha uma boa noite (Have a good night)

Polite Expressions (Expressões de cortesia)

How to say thank you in Portuguese – Obrigado or Obrigada?
  • Por favor or Se faz favor (Please)
  • Obrigado (Thank you – masculine)
  • Obrigada (Thank you – feminine)
  • De nada (You’re welcome)
  • Com licença (Excuse me)
  • Desculpe (Sorry)

Learn more about the difference between Obrigado and Obrigada in our video: How to say thank you in Portuguese – Obrigado or Obrigada?

Short Questions and Answers (Perguntas e Respostas Curtas)

  • Sim (Yes)
  • Não (No)
  • Talvez (Maybe)
  • Por favor, repita. (Please repeat)
  • Pode falar mais devagar? (Can you speak more slowly?)
  • Não entendo (I don’t understand)
  • Fala inglês? (Do you speak English?)
  • Como se diz ___ em português? (How do you say ___ in Portuguese?)
  • Posso ajudar? (Can I help?)
  • Estou perdido/a (I’m lost)
  • Estou a aprender português (I am learning Portuguese)
  • Compreendo (I understand)
  • Não compreendo (I don’t understand)
  • Pode repetir, por favor? (Can you repeat, please?)
  • Pode explicar, por favor? (Can you explain, please?)
  • Qual é a palavra para ___? (What is the word for ___?)
  • Por favor, escreva. (Please write)
  • Onde fica a casa de banho? (Where is the bathroom?)
  • Que horas são? (What time is it?)
  • Como chego a ___? (How do I get to ___?)
  • Que horas são? (What time is it?)
  • Quanto custa? (How much does it cost?)

Introductions (Apresentações)

Learning to introduce yourself in Portuguese is the first step to interacting with native speakers. Here are some useful phrases you can use:

  • Qual é o seu nome? (What’s your name?)
  • O meu nome é ___ or Eu chamo-me ___ (My name is ___)
  • Quantos anos tem? (How old are you?)
  • Eu tenho ___ anos (I am ___ years old)
  • Onde mora? (Where do you live?)
  • Eu moro em ___ (I live in ___)
  • Como foi o seu dia? (How was your day?)
Understand the differences of saying "Nice to meet you" in Portuguese-speaking countries
Read Nice to Meet You in Portuguese: The Beginner’s Guide to Introductions!

Numbers, Telling the Time, and Dates

Another fundamental aspect of the Portuguese language is numbers. From shopping to exchanging cellphone numbers with your new friends, you will need to know the numbers in Portuguese. You can practice the Portuguese pronunciation of the numbers in the YouTube video: Numbers 1-10 in European Portuguese

Numbers 1-10 in European Portuguese
  • 1 – Um
  • 2 – Dois
  • 3 – Três
  • 4 – Quatro
  • 5 – Cinco
  • 6 – Seis
  • 7 – Sete
  • 8 – Oito
  • 9 – Nove
  • 10 – Dez
  • 11 – Onze
  • 12 – Doze
  • 13 – Treze
  • 14 – Quatorze
  • 15 – Quinze
  • 16 – Dezasseis
  • 17 – Dezassete
  • 18 – Dezoito
  • 19 – Dezanove
  • 20 – Vinte
  • 30 – Trinta
  • 40 – Quarenta
  • 50 – Cinquenta
  • 60 – Sessenta
  • 70 – Setenta
  • 80 – Oitenta
  • 90 – Noventa
  • 100 – Cem
  • 1’000 – Mil
  • 1’000’000 – Um milhão

Asking and Telling The Time

Asking and telling the time is another crucial aspect of conversation in Portuguese. Unlike English, the Portuguese word for weather and time is the same (Tempo). Thus, when asking for the time, Portuguese natives usually say Hours (Horas). 

You can ask Que horas são? (What time is it?). Your answer will be, for example, São três e meia (It’s half past three). Then, most natives use the 12-hour clock, although without any reference to a.m. or p.m. Others prefer the 24-hour clock, which has the same meaning but forces you to learn a few extra words. You can learn more about this subject in Telling & Asking the Time – Portuguese Portugal/European.

Telling & Asking the Time – Portuguese Portugal/European

Days of The Week (Dias da Semana)

The days of the week in Portuguese are:

  • Segunda-feira (Monday)
  • Terça-feira (Tuesday) 
  • Quarta-feira (Wednesday) 
  • Quinta-feira (Thursday)
  • Sexta-feira (Friday)
  • Sábado (Saturday) 
  • Domingo (Sunday)

Discover how to pronounce them in Days of the Week in Portuguese (Essential Prepositions and History)

Days of the Week in Portuguese (Essential Prepositions and History)

Seasons (Estações), and Months (Meses)

If you know other Romance languages, you will notice the Portuguese words for the months and seasons are similar, for example, to Spanish and French. The seasons are: 

  • Inverno (Winter)
  • Primavera (Spring)
  • Verão (Summer)
  • Outono (Autumn)

On the other hand, the months are:  

Months & Seasons in European Portuguese
  • Janeiro (January)
  • Fevereiro (February)
  • Março (March)
  • Abril (April)
  • Maio (May)
  • Junho (June)
  • Julho (July)
  • Agosto (August) 
  • Setembro (September)
  • Outubro (October)
  • Novembro (November)
  • Dezembro (December)

Watch the Months & Seasons in European Portuguese to learn to pronounce these words like a native speaker.  

Food and Drink Vocabulary

If you have ever been to Portugal, you know about all the delicious foods you will find there. Cooking and sharing meals with friends and family is a significant part of Portuguese culture. Moreover, the Portuguese love to discuss dishes and recipes, whether traditional or not. Thus, food and drink vocabulary is essential. 

Meals (Refeições)

  • Pequeno-almoço (Breakfast)
  • Almoço (Lunch)
  • Jantar (Dinner)
  • Lanche (Snack)
  • Entrada (Appetizer)
  • Prato principal (Main course)
  • Sobremesa (Dessert)
  • Lanche (Mid-afternoon snack)

Food (Comida

NEW VOCAB SET: A Foolproof Guide to Portuguese Sausages
Delicious Food Finds in Madeira!
  • Pão (Bread)
  • Arroz (Rice)
  • Carne (Meat)
  • Peixe (Fish)
  • Frango (Chicken)
  • Legumes (Vegetables)
  • Fruta (Fruit)
  • Queijo (Cheese)
  • Ovos (Eggs)
  • Azeite (Olive oil)
  • Sal (Salt)
  • Pimenta (Pepper)
  • Sopa (Soup)
  • Salada (Salad)
  • Sanduíche (Sandwich)
  • Pizza (Pizza)
  • Massa (Pasta)
  • Batata (Potato)
  • Sopa de legumes (Vegetable soup)
  • Bife (Steak)
  • Salada de frutas (Fruit salad)
  • Torrada (Toast)
  • Manteiga (Butter)
  • Gelado (Ice cream)
  • Chocolate (Chocolate)
  • Bolo (Cake)
  • Marisco (Seafood)
  • Enchidos (Curated and smoked sausages)

You can learn more about traditional Portuguese sausages in NEW VOCAB SET: A Foolproof Guide to Portuguese Sausages. Plus, explore bakery vocabulary in Delicious Food Finds in Madeira!

Drink (Bebida)

  • Água (Water)
  • Leite (Milk)
  • Açúcar (Sugar)
  • Café (Coffee)
  • Chá (Tea)
  • Sumo (Juice)
  • Sumo de Laranja (Orange juice)
  • Cerveja (Beer)
  • Vinho (Wine)

Coffee is a staple in the lives of native European and Brazilian Portuguese speakers. Discover All the Types of Coffee served in Portugal and choose your favorite! 

All the Types of Coffee served in Portugal

Practical Vocabulary for Travel and Navigation

Whether you are visiting Portugal for tourism, moving there, or making a business trip, there is no going around travel and navigation Portuguese vocabulary. Besides, regardless of where you are in the world, you must know how to ask for directions in a new environment. 

Directions and Transportation

Here are the basic words related to directions and transportation.

  • Transporte (Transportation)
  • Rua (Street)
  • Avenida (Avenue)
  • Estrada (Road)
  • Rotunda (Roundabout)
  • Trânsito (Traffic)
  • Paragem (Bus stop)
  • Estação (Station)

Means of Transport (Meios de Transporte)

  • Bicicleta (Bicycle)
  • Andar a pé (Walking)
  • Comboio (Train)
  • Autocarro (Bus)
  • Táxi (Taxi)
  • Carro (Car)

Directions (Direções)

  • Virar (Turn)
  • Seguir em frente (Go straight)
  • Esquerda (Left)
  • Direita (Right)
  • Dar a volta (Turn around)

Accommodation and Booking

Regarding accommodation and booking, you will find many words used by English speakers. For instance, Portuguese speakers also say Check-in and Check-outHostelSuite, and Hotel. Here are other common Portuguese words under this theme: 

  • Alojamento (Accommodation)
  • Reserva (Booking/Reservation)
  • Quarto (Room)
  • Cama (Bed)
  • Casa de banho (Bathroom)
  • Chave (Key)
  • Receção (Reception)
  • Estadia (Stay)
  • Pensão (Guesthouse)
  • Apartamento (Apartment)
  • Casa de férias (Holiday home)
  • Campismo (Camping)
  • Cama individual (Single bed)
  • Cama de casal (Double bed)

Cultural Insights Through Idioms and Expressions

Despite not being essential, idioms are a significant aspect of any language. When you analyze and adopt these unique phrases, you learn Portuguese as the natives speak it. Besides, doing so helps you understand what makes Portuguese such a beautiful language. 

That is why The Journey often includes cultural snippets and teaches more than the standard official language. This way, you can learn Portuguese and use it in your everyday life to connect with others. 

Learn Portuguese idioms and use them in your everyday life to connect with native speakers
Learn Portuguese idioms and use them in your everyday life to connect with native speakers

Most students struggle with idioms because they often do not have an English translation or become meaningless when translated. However, adding colloquial expressions to your language skills brings you many advantages. For example, it will help you blend in with the locals when you speak Portuguese. 

Common Idioms and Proverbs

Here are ten traditional sayings, their English translation, and simplified explanations. These examples will show you how using such expressions will bring you closer to fluency in your Portuguese journey. 

  • Matar dois coelhos com uma cajadada só
    • Literal translation: To kill two rabbits with one blow
    • Meaning: To accomplish two things at once
  • Quem não tem cão caça com gato
    • Literal translation: He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat
    • Meaning: Making do with what you have
  • Estar com a pulga atrás da orelha
    • Literal translation: To have the flea behind the ear
    • Meaning: To be suspicious
  • Bater com a porta na cara
    • Literal translation: To slam the door in someone’s face
    • Meaning: To reject someone
  • Estar com os azeites
    • Literal translation: To be with the oils
    • Meaning: To be in a bad mood
  • Ficar a ver navios
    • Literal translation: To stay watching ships
    • Meaning: To be left waiting for something that never happens
  • Meter o bedelho onde não é chamado
    • Literal translation: To stick one’s nose where it’s not called
    • Meaning: To meddle in other people’s business
  • Cair o Carmo e a Trindade
    • Literal translation: To make Carmo and Trindade fall
    • Meaning: To create chaos or a big commotion
  • Dar o nó cego
    • Literal translation: To tie a blind knot
    • Meaning: To do something blindly or without thinking
  • Estar a ver navios
    • Literal translation: To be seeing ships
    • Meaning: To be waiting for something that doesn’t happen

If you want to learn more about common Portuguese idioms, check out these links: 

Concluding on How to Improve Your European Portuguese Vocabulary

Expanding your vocabulary is an essential step toward fluency in any language. It enables you to boost your progress and elevate your language skills. Exploring the most common Portuguese words and expressions will allow you to engage with natives more confidently. After all, words are the building blocks of any conversation, and knowing their meaning and when to apply them is crucial. 

Save this post and explore each snippet and extra content. With it, you can get a head start or boost your European Portuguese vocabulary for free! Additionally, check out 500 Common Words in 3 minutes! (European Portuguese Vocabulary)

500 Common Words in 3 minutes! (European Portuguese Vocabulary)

As you continue learning, you will also learn to distinguish between Portuguese from Portugal and Brazil. These two main variants of the language might confuse you initially, but you will soon get their differences and the richness of the cultures behind them.

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