Is Portuguese Similar To Spanish | Simple Answer

Today I’ll compare Portuguese with a special dialect of Portuguese call Spanish.


Is Portuguese similar to Spanish? It might one of the most common language-related misconceptions. But not that hard nut to crack! Let’s just break it down.

Is Portuguese similar to Spanish? The Simple Answer is:

Yes, Portuguese and Spanish are the most alike languages. But How? Let’s find out.

As you probably know, Spanish and Portuguese are both Ibero-Romance languages that developed on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain and Portugal occupy the unique geographic layout of the Iberian Peninsula. However, of all the Romance languages, Spanish is the closest to Portuguese.

Both languages are descended from Vulgar Latin. They are sharing a common origin by Roman Empire as Rome brought Latin to the peninsula. This language group consists of Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan.

They are also sharing a geographical fact. So it’s only natural for these both languages to resemble in a lot of ways.

Is Portuguese similar to Spanish? Comparison:

They are closely related and quite similar in many ways. Both languages spread to the four corners of the globe during the colonial period. And have seen a strong presence throughout the world.

It is estimated that 525 million people worldwide speak Spanish, the topmost widely spoken Romance language and the fourth most-spoken language in the world. Spanish is also the third most widely used language on the internet. (well, that’s amazing)

Around ten million people speak Portuguese in Portugal, but it is much more dispersed around the globe. It’s the second most widely spoken Romance language.

Important Note: European Portuguese, which is spoken in Portugal, is very far from Spanish. Brazilian Portuguese, which is spoken in Brazil, sounds much closer to Spanish. Hence, these two are drastically different from each other.

Does everyone think ‘Is Portuguese similar to Spanish? Or it’s just a myth?’

Now here, different people have different views regarding the similarity of both languages. Some people think that Portuguese and Spanish are the same languages.

For instance, in Canada, if you tell someone that you want to study Portuguese, they might say, “Oh. Isn’t that kind of Spanish?” And yet there is another way around as some might say: “Why Portuguese and not Spanish Instead?

Did You Know?

The Iberian Peninsula was under Islamic rule for several hundred years. During that time, Portugal absorbed some Arabic language influence, which includes about 800 vocabulary words of Arabic origin. Something similar happened to Spanish too.

Is Portuguese similar to Spanish? Mutually Intelligible Or Not? Here’s the technical answer.

Mutual intelligibility is asymmetric. It is greater between the written languages than the spoken forms.

Interestingly Spanish and Portuguese share about 89% lexical similarity. Meaning that 89% of words have a cognate (equivalent) in the other language.

On paper, the two language does look very similar. The conjugation system follows the same logic and declinations. So if you know either Romance language, you can probably understand a lot of the other one without studying the language. And recognize the written sentences. Additionally, check out another interesting blog post on 9 languages similar to Spanish – the language treasure.

But hold on! It’s not just that.

Now that doesn’t always mean that 89% of the words will be the same. And even though cognates often look and sound very similar, but others look and sound quite different.

For instance, this pair of cognates resemble each other: In Spanish and Portuguese, ‘Mundo’ means world or earth.

And now it’s a less obvious pair of cognates: In Spanish ‘pez’ and in Portuguese ‘peixe,’ these words mean Fish.

Here you can see the connection, but it’s not quite so obvious.

However, intelligibility also varies depending on the dialect. So, stop thinking of Portuguese as the strange little brother of Spanish. (eh?)

Most Obvious Differences Are In Pronunciation:

The spoken languages, however, are more different from each other. And less mutual to intelligible than the written forms. Well, it’s mostly because of the different pronunciation and syntax between the two languages.

The Portuguese letters “ç” and “ã” don’t exist in Spanish. And Portuguese doesn’t have  “ñ” unlike Spanish. Here the Portuguese equivalent will have “nh.”

Just like señora/Senhora. But this is not the case every time.

Portuguese has a lot of slurred sounds and a very fluid language, unlike Spanish. In Spanish, words are more deliberate.

Spanish has 5 vowel sounds, while Portuguese is leading with 9. The vowels with a nasal sound don’t found in Spanish.

Portuguese has much more complex phonology than Spanish with many extra sounds. And this is the one reason that Portuguese speakers have an easier time understanding spoken Spanish than vice versa.

And so the things get a bit more complicated when it comes to phonology.  So please don’t count on being able to speak it fluently.

It Is Stated:

Reportedly the  Portuguese speakers typically understand spoken Spanish better than Spanish speakers understand Portuguese.

Though sometimes, depending on your exposure to the other variety of the language, you might have some trouble understanding or communicating. So, in my opinion, it really depends on their contact and experience with each other’s languages.

False Friend Increase The Difficulty Level;

You constantly encounter cognates in Spanish and Portuguese, but you also encounter lots of false friends.

You might not consider how wrong a conversation can go if you use Spanish words, thinking they are the same in Portuguese.

They can cause some crazy misunderstandings. And would be close enough to screw with your head if you’re not careful. There is a full list of them. Here are some examples:


For instance, in Spanish, the word ‘pelado’ means ‘Skinned/peeled,’ but it also means someone with a shaved head/new haircut. In Brazilian Portuguese, it means ‘Naked.’


Here’s another example, in Portuguese, the word for ‘Octopus’ is ‘Polvo.’ It’s not offensive.  While in Spanish, the word for octopus is ‘Pulpo,’ and ‘Polvo’ means ‘dust,’ but it also means something sexual slang (Kids! Don’t Google It).

So just be careful when asking for octopus in a Spanish speaking country.

‘Embar Çada’:

Like in Portuguese, the word embar çada has the same meaning as the English ’embarrassed.’ But ’embarazada’ is the word for “pregnant” in Spanish. Confusing with these words would leave you embar çada for sure.


And now, when you are already embarrassed in a Spanish-speaking country, do not call anyone ‘borracha,’ which is referred to someone who drank too much.

While in Portuguese, a ‘borracha’ is an eraser.

Even though lots of words are pretty much the same in either language, it might be a little dangerous to assume that they mean the same thing.

‘Is Portuguese similar to Spanish?’ Let’s wrap it up;

Similar languages are common, not only for Latin. They are the same as Italian and French. Like a Swedish understands a Norwegian; Slovak and polish; German and Dutch etc.

Spanish and Portuguese are indeed sister languages. Undeniably, they share the same linguistic root and have a lot in common. Most of the grammar rules and much of the vocabulary are similar.

Yet, they do have a lot of little differences that altogether make them distinct languages. Both of the languages stand on their own and have global importance.

So when it comes to understanding and being understood, you’ll always have to learn to become fluent in either language.

It is justified to study both languages separately. You cannot expect to be understood in a Portuguese-speaking country while you are speaking Spanish. Likewise, you can’t go to any Spanish-speaking country and speak Portuguese.

Plus, knowing either language will help you learn the other one relatively quickly. And when you know better, you do better.

I hope there’s no more confusion left for the misconception.

You Might Also Like:

Unlocking Accessibility: The Power of Subtitles, Closed Captions, and SDH Subtitles in Translation Services

Understanding Translation: From Free Engines to Language Service

The Art of Translation: Ensuring Accuracy and Quality in Translated Texts

Exploring Interpretation Types: Fundamental Principles and Application

Interpretation vs translation – what is the difference?

Introduction to Community Interpreting

Get an instant quote

An easy way to get your documents translated fast. Order online in a few clicks.

Get In Touch

Contact Us

1910 Towne Centre Blvd. Suite 1013 Annapolis, MD 21401

1 (202) 544-2942

Please select where you’d like to log in