Figurative meaning in Portuguese

Figurative meaning in Portuguese

Coração na mão – Figurative meaning in Portuguese

Welcome to our Portuguese Basic Tips (in English) in which we are going to give some examples about figurative meaning in Portuguese.

On today’s podcast we are going to give some examples using figurative meaning in Portuguese. Last episode I spoke about nouns in Portuguese. I tried to classify them. In the end of it, you realized that you can change the meaning of a word, only by changing an article in front of it.  Do you remember that?

You may also like our podcast about Brazilian movies

For instance, you can say:

  • Salvador é a capital da Bahia (Salvador is the Capital of Bahia State)

But you can also say:

  • Eu não tenho o capital suficiente (I don’t have enough Money)

The first case refers to a “Capital” of a Brazilian State and the second one refers to certain amount of Money.

Today we are going to change the meaning of the whole sentence! I don’t know how you call it in your own language; in Portuguese we call it “figurative meaning” – sentido figurado.

Sentido figurado is when the meaning of some words or phrases change, in particular usage situations.

For instance, in Portuguese you can say:

  • Este avião é muito pequeno (This plane is very small)

This is an example of a sentence in a literal sense.

Now, pay attention to this phrase using a figurative sense:

  • Aquela pequena é um avião

In this case, the word “pequena” is referring to a woman. Yeah, sometimes we use this term in Brazil. It is a “cute” term to refer to a woman.

And the noun “avião” (plane) is and adjective now. It is it is qualifying that woman.

In this case, avião means a very, very beautiful woman.

So, the whole sentence can mean “That woman is very, very beautiful”.

Let’s take other examples we often use here. You may find some similar ones in your first language. Still, I think they are important

Using figurative meaning in Portuguese


  • A minha vida é um livro aberto (My life is an opened book)

How’s that? Is your life an opened book?

The meaning of this is that you have nothing to hide from anyone. You are not scared of anything.

Now, let’s talk about the opposite sense:

  • Eu estava com o coração na mão. (Literally: I was with my heart in my hand). Sounds bad!

Unless you are a doctor, the expression coração na mão can’t be understood in a literal sense. You should understand that as “I was afraid of something” or “I was nervous about something”.

  • A minha sogra é uma cobra (Literally: My mother in law is a snake).

Again, don’t try to understand the word “cobra” in a literal sense in this case. When people use this term here, they are referring to a bad person. It is a pejorative adjective.

  • Ele mudou da água para o vinho. Here we have an equivalent term in english, right? If someone turns water into wine, he transforms something bad into something excellent.
  • Eu quero sumir deste lugar (I want to disappear from this place).

Actually, this is not a magic trick. You simply don’t want to be there.

  • Isto é uma pedra no meu sapato (Literally: this is a stone in my shoe), but you can understand that as “a thorn in my side”.
  • Cortar as asas de alguém (Literally: To cut someone’s wings), but the meaning of the phrases is “to cut somebody down”

Become a Premium Member to download our learning guides

Check this article (only in Portuguese) with a few examples of figurative sense

Here we have a podcast about Brazilian internet slang

That’s enough for today!

I hope this will be useful to you.

See you next time.


Marcos Sales


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *