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In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin, therefore they are similar both as regards their sounds and their meanings, in different languages: pai (Portuguese), father (English), padre (Italian), pére (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit) are cognates that descend from languages in the same family, the Indo-European. The same phenomenon occurs when we compare words from different language families. In this case, another factor also needs to be taken into account and that is the different manner by which certain sounds are voiced, such as when the Portuguese “l” becomes “r” in Japanese, “v” becomes “b”, and so forth.

As the Portuguese Empire spread worldwide between the 14th and 16th centuries, so did the Portuguese language that rapidly took hold throughout the Far East where the first contacts between discoverers and locals was facilitated by polyglot interpreters, so-called lingoas. Not only was Portuguese widely spoken by the colonial governors and by merchants, it was the lingua franca between local authorities and Europeans of all nationalities. Mixed marriages between Portuguese and locals also helped the spread of the language[i]  and many Portuguese words were adopted by local languages when Jesuit missionaries from Portugal introduced Christian ideas and objects.

The following table[ii] gives examples of many of these cognates that have survived to the present day.

archaic word

Japanese

Japanese Meaning

Pre-modern
Portuguese

Modern
Portuguese

English

Comments

arukōru

alcohol

alcool

álcool

alcohol

originally from Arabic, term possibly brought to Japan by the Portuguese

bateren

a Jesuit missionary priest

padre

padre

priest

used in early Christianity

battera

kind of sushi

bateira

- (barco)

boat

named after its shape

bīdoro

a certain traditional
type of glass artifact

vidro

vidro

glass

 

birōdo

velvet

veludo

veludo

velvet

 

bōro

a small cake
or muffin

bolo

bolo

cake

keiki (from the English cake) is most used today.

botan

button

botão

botão

button

 

charumera

small double-reed wind instrument

charamela

charamela

wind pipe

formerly played by Japanese noodle vendors

chokki

waistcoat

jaque

colete

waistcoat

 

furasuko

flask

frasco

frasco

flask

 

iesu or iezusu

Jesus

Jesu

Jesus

Jesus

Possibly of latin origin from the Jesuit mass

iruman

unordained missionary/
friar

irmão

irmão

brother

used in early Christianity

jōro

watering can

jarro

jarro

jug

 

juban/jiban

underwear for kimonos

jibão

– (roupa íntima)

underwear

From FR cognate jupon meaning undergarment

kanakin/kanekin

shirting, percale

canequim

canequim

unbleached muslin/calico

 

kandeya

oil lamp

candeia, candela

vela, candeia

candle

extinct, as oil lamps went obsolete

kapitan

captain
(of sailing ships from Europe)

capitão

capitão

captain

 

kappa

raincoat

capa

capa (de chuva)/

impermeável

raincoat, coat

reinkōto (from the English raincoat) is common today

karuta

karuta cards

cartas (de jogar)

cartas (de jogar)

playing cards

a traditional type of playing cards, quite different from the modern ones

kirishitan

Christians in the 16th-17th centuries

christão

cristão

Christian

Today's Christians are kurisuchan (from the English).

kirisuto

Christ

Christo

Cristo

Christ

 

Kompeitō

Kind of star-shaped candy

confeito

confeito

sweets, candies

 

koppu

cup

copo

copo

cup

 

kurusu

cross

cruz

cruz

cross

 

kyarameru / karameru

caramel

caramelo

caramelo

caramel

 

manto

cloak

manto

manto

cloak

 

marumero

quince

marmelo

marmelo

quince

 

meriyasu

a kind of knit textile

medias

meias

hosiery, knitting

 

mīra

mummy

mirra

mirra

myrrh

Originally, mummies embalmed using myrrh.

oranda

The Netherlands

Hollanda

Holanda

The Netherlands/ Holland

 

orugan

organ

orgão

orgão

organ

 

pan

bread

pão

pão

bread

The word was introduced into Japan by Portuguese missionaries.

rasha

a kind of wool woven textile

raxa

– feltro

felt

cloth

rozario

rosary

rosario

rosário

rosary

 

sabato

Saturday

sábado

sábado

Saturday

 

sarasa

chintz

saraça

 

chintz

 

shabon

soap

sabão

sabão

soap

usually seen in shabon-dama ('soap bubbles') in modern Japanese

tabako

tobacco, cigarette

tobaco

tabaco

tobacco, cigarette

 

totan

galvanized sheet iron

tutanaga

 

corrugated roofing material

 

tempura

deep-fried seafood/ vegetables

tempero, temperar; tempora

tempero, temperar; tempora

seasoning, to season;

 

zabon

citrine/
cider

zamboa

zamboa

type of citrine

 

 

What is is the connection between the Japanese arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much) and the Portuguese obrigado, both words expressing Thank You?  None, at least not apparently.  The short form of the Japanese expression, arigato, has its origin in the verb aru (to have) and the ending gatai (difficult) and it existed in Japan long before the Portuguese arrived in the country.[iii]  The Portuguese expression obrigado, on the other hand, has its origin in the Latin verb obrigare (to be obliged). Still, although there is no apparent phological connection between both words, seeing as how nowadays both are used to express the same sentiment, this similarity could be more than a mere coincidence…

 



[i]Professora Lúcia Vaz Pedro, no Jornal de Notícias,  “A Evolução do Português”, in This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 2012-04-21.

[ii] Japanese Words of Portuguese Origin, descarregado 2012-15-07 de http://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/portuguese.html.

[iii] Jonathan Lewis, “Origins of Arigato”, in http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-1871.html.