by Liz Walter
With the football World Cup in Brazil about to kick off, this blog looks at Portuguese, the language of Brazil, and its influence on English.
The Portuguese loanwords we have in English tend to be for fairly rare items. Probably because the Portuguese were such great explorers, they include several names of living creatures, for example piranha, cobra, flamingo, macaw and plants such as jacaranda (a tropical tree with large, blue flowers) and manioc (a plant grown for its edible roots).
Other English words of Portuguese origin include albino (a person with white skin and hair and pink eyes), sargasso (a large mass of floating plants in the sea), molasses (a dark syrup) and tapioca (a grain used to make a milk dessert remembered with horror by most British people over the age of fifty). Another surprising addition to this list is the word fetish, which originally came from a Portuguese word meaning ‘false’.
Interestingly, there is also a small group of words which have come into English as a result of Portuguese influence in India. Examples are amah (a female servant), ayah (a children’s nursemaid) and mandarin (now used mainly as a critical term for a government official). Read the rest of this entry ?