Portugal’s Empire Strikes Back

During the height of its power, Portugal spread its language far and wide. Today, it faces up to its new realities and officially adopts the Brazilian form of its language.

Portugal’s parliament has voted to introduce contentious changes to the Portuguese language in order to spell hundreds of words the Brazilian way. The agreement standardises numerous spellings and adds three letters – k, w and y – to the alphabet.


The agreement will standardise spelling by removing silent consonants in order for words to be spelt more phonetically, turning, for example “optimo” (great) into “otimo”.

Friday’s vote came after a unified form of the Portuguese language was originally agreed with seven Portuguese-speaking countries in 1991. The official language of more than 230m people worldwide, Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe, as well as Portugal.

Amazing stuff. It’s as if the UK had decided to adopt USA spellings from now on. Wounded Portuguese pride, indeed.

No word on whether Portugal will also modify its bikini waxing techniques in accordance with Brazilian practices.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    It’s been widely noted that Brazilians scream more than the Portugese. A cultural difference, perhaps? Or, just better novacaine?

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    What’s next? The Portuguese royal family pulling up stakes and moving to Brazil? That happened nearly 200 years ago.

  3. vilmar says:

    Never forget it was a Portuguese doctor who brought us the “frontal lobotomy.”

    Got a Nobel for it, too.

  4. Bithead says:

    Never forget it was a Portuguese doctor who brought us the “frontal lobotomy.”

    And so it was for hundreds of years that the Portuguese didn’t know what the Brazilians were doing.

    Or something.