Latin vs Portuguese: The main differences between the two languages

Portuguese and Latin are different languages, but they are related since Portuguese has evolved from Latin.

Here is an in-depth comparison of Latin and Portuguese, covering the linguistic similarities and differences between these two languages.

Portuguese vs Latin: spelling differences

A large part of Portuguese vocabulary is derived from Latin vocabulary words. But Latin-derived Portuguese words often have a different spelling than the original Latin word. There are some interesting patterns in these spelling differences.

First pattern: “-ção”in Portuguese vs. “-tio” in Latin

A pattern in the spelling differences between Portuguese and Latin concerns Latin nouns ending in “-tio”. The Portuguese nouns which are derived from these often end in “-ção”.

Below are some examples of Portuguese nouns which end in “-ção” and the corresponding Latin noun ending in “-tio”.

Portuguese Latin English
educação ēducātiō education
informação informatio information
invitação invitatio invitation
decisão dēcīsio decision
animação animātiō animation
perfeição perfectiō perfection
evolução ēvolūtiō evolution
atenção attentio attention
obrigação obligatio obligation
condição conditiō condition
intenção intentiō intention
translação trānslātiō translation
ocupação occupatio occupation
missão missio mission
discussão discussio discussion
imitação imitātiō imitation

Second pattern: “-vel” in Portuguese vs. “-bilis” in Latin

Another pattern in the spelling differences between Portuguese and Latin concerns Latin adjectives which end in “-bilis”. The Portuguese adjectives which are derived from these often end in “-vel”.

Here are some examples of Portuguese adjectives which end in “-vel” and the corresponding Latin adjective ending in “-bilis”:

Portuguese Latin English
adorável adorabilis adorable
admirável admirabilis admirable
formidável formīdābilis formidable
possível possibilis possible
amável amābilis kind
improvável improbabilis unlikely
invisível invīsibilis invisible
lamentável lamentabilis unfortunate
durável dūrābilis durable
comparável comparābilis comparable
defensável dēfensābilis defensible
instável īnstabilis unstable
tolerável tolerābilis tolerable
habitável habitābilis habitable
respeitável respectābilis respectable
flexível flexibilis flexible
afável affābilis affable
evitável ēvītābilis preventable
inteligível intelligibilis intelligible
terrível terribilis terrible
sociável sociābilis sociable
credível crēdibilis credible

Third pattern: “-io” in Portuguese vs. “-ium” or “-ius” in Latin

There is another pattern in the spelling differences between Portuguese and Latin which concerns Latin nouns ending in ”-ium” or “-ius”. The corresponding Portuguese nouns often end in “-io”.

Below are some examples of Portuguese nouns ending in “-io” which are derived from the latin nouns ending in ”-ium” or “-ius”.

Portuguese Latin English
salário salārium wage
estádio stadium stadium
auditório audītōrium auditorium
ordinário ōrdinārius ordinary
aniversário anniversarius birthday
usuário ūsuārius user
adversário adversārius adversary
solitário sōlitārius lonely
monetário monetarius monetary
itinerário itinerarius itinerary
necessário necessārius necessary
aquário aquārium aquarium

Fourth pattern: some Latin double consonants become single consonants in Portuguese

In classical Latin there was a distinction between short and long consonant sounds. Long consonant sounds were indicated by doubling the consonant letter. This is why double consonants are common in the spelling of Latin vocabulary words.

In contrast, the use of double consonants in Portuguese is mostly restricted to the letter ‘r’ and ‘s’ (although the doubling of other consonants can occur in some borrowed words, for example “pizza”).

As a result, a common pattern in the spelling differences between Portuguese and Latin vocabulary words is the loss of the double consonant in Portuguese. Here are some examples:

Latin Portuguese English
Words that are spelled with 'ff' in Latin vs. single 'f' in Portuguese:
differo diferente different
difficilis difícil difficult
offero oferta offer
offensio ofensa offense
officialis oficial official
effectus efeito effect
Words that are spelled with 'pp' in Latin vs. single 'p' in Portuguese:
opportunitas oportunidade opportunity
appropriare apropriado/a appropriate
approbare aprovar approve
Words that are spelled with 'mm' in Latin vs. single 'm' in Portuguese
communis comum common
accommodo acomodar accommodate
consummatio consumo consumption
Words that are spelled with 'cc' in Latin vs. single 'c' in Portuguese
acceptus aceitável acceptable
occupo ocupar occupy
accuso acusar accuse
successio sucessão succession
peccatum pecado sin

To continue exploring the vocabulary similarities and differences between Portuguese and Latin, have a look at these lists of the 1000 most common Latin words, and the 1000 most common Portuguese words.

Portuguese vs Latin: some grammar differences

Grammatical cases and noun declensions

In Latin, nouns are inflected to indicate their grammatical function in the sentence. In contrast, in Portuguese nouns are not inflected.

Word order is another difference between Portuguese and Latin.

The most common word order in Latin is SOV (subject-object-verb) whereas the most common word order in Portuguese is SVO (subject-verb-object).

Latin has a more flexible word order than Portuguese. This is because Latin indicates the grammatical function of nouns through inflections - and as a result doesn’t need to rely as much on word order to indicate grammatical function.

Grammatical gender in Portuguese vs Latin

Portuguese and Latin are both languages In which nouns have grammatical gender. For example, the word for “moon” is feminine in both Latin and Portuguese. And the word for “sun” is masculine in both Latin and Portuguese.

With regards to grammatical gender, there is still a difference between Latin and Portuguese: Latin has a third grammatical gender: (neuter).

Grammatical articles

Portuguese has both definite and definite articles. For example, “the book” translates to “o livro”, while “a book” translates to “um livro”.

Latin is different from Portuguese in this respect, because Latin is a language which has neither definite nor indefinite articles. For example, both “the king” and “a king” translate to “rex” in Latin.

The verb “to be” in Latin vs Portuguese

Portuguese has 2 main verbs which correspond to the English verb “to be”. These verbs are “ser” and “estar”.

One of the nuances between these two verbs is that the verb “ser” is used for permanent states, while the verb “estar” is used for temporary states.

For example, the phrase “How are you today?” translates to “Como você está hoje?” en Portuguese. Notice the use of the verb “estar” used for a temporary state.

Another example: the phrase “How tall are you?” translates to “Quão alto é você?” in Portuguese. Notice the use of the verb “ser” used for a permanent state.

In contrast to Portuguese, Classical Latin has one main verb which corresponds to the English verb “to be” - this verb is “esse”. Its conjugation is quite irregular, as can be seen in Descartes' famous phrase: “cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”).

The Portuguese verb “estar” is derived from the Latin word “stāre” which is a form of the Latin verb “stō” meaning “stand”, “stay” or “remain”.

Conclusion

Portuguese is a language which originates from Latin, and as a result Portuguese and Latin share many similar vocabulary words. There are interesting patterns in the spelling differences between the two languages - we have pointed out a few in this article.

In terms of grammar, Portuguese and Latin display significant differences in many areas including grammatical cases, word order, grammatical gender and articles.

For more on how Latin compares to other languages, see the following articles:

Interesting fact: English is a Germanic language which means that it does not originate from Latin. There are however many Latin-derived words in English. Many of these have entered the English language as loanwords from French.

These Latin-derived words in English are one of the reasons why Portuguese is among the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.