Cape Verdean Creole, also called kriolu or kriol, is a native language derived from both Portuguese and African dialects. It is primarily an oral language so certain expressions and their spelling may vary depending on which island you are visiting.
It is fairly simple to find a guide to common words and touristic phrases online, however, it is not so easy to find a list of the slang and colloquialisms of the region. With the help of my fellow RPCV’s (Returned Peace Corps volunteers), I compiled a list of phrases and slang which you are likely to encounter during your visit.
Side note, compiling this list and reminiscing on my 2 years spent in Cape Verde truly filled me with sodade. Don’t worry, you will learn that word below.
Common Phrases and Expressions
Casca dente – This literally translates as “to peel the teeth”. Just as Americans may say “say cheese!”, this is an expression often used among children meaning “to smile”.
Example: “Get ready to take a picture, casca dente!”
Da pa dodu – This phrase translates to “give for crazy” and is an expression meaning to act silly. It also can be used when someone is playing a joke on someone else or acting up.
Example: I used this expression quite a bit with my students when they would act up in class. If a student was joking around I would say to the class “el da pa dodu, o não?” This means “he is acting silly, don’t you think?”
Djabôdja – This word is actually a shortened version of the phrase “dja bo odja” meaning “now you see” or “I told you so”.
Example: A mother is telling her child not to play with the scissors, yet the child persists and winds up cutting himself. The mother is likely to exclaim “djabôdja”.
Ka ta da – This expression is used when something just isn’t going to happen.
Example: If a guy is trying to impress a girl who is just not interested. Someone might sympathetically say “Sorry man, ka ta da.”
Maneira – This is a one-word expression translating to “what’s up”?
Example: You pass by someone in the road and can say “maneira?”
O nha mae – This literally means “oh my mother”. It an expression similar to “oh my gosh”.
Example: You watch your friend put way too much hot sauce on their Cachupa and you know she is going to make herself sick. You watch her bring the spoon of extremely spicy food up to her mouth and cover your eyes as you exclaim “oh nha maeeeeee”. (Sometimes the word mae is held for a long time for added effect, just like you would hold the word “noooooooo”.)
Sodade te matam – This phrase literally means “longing is killing me.” It is similar to the American saying “to miss something so bad it hurts.”
Example: I haven’t seen my friends in Cape Verde in 6 years, sodade te matam.
Sta sab; sab di mas; rei de sabi – These three expressions mean “it is good” with increasing levels of intensity. Sta sab basically means “it is good”, whereas sab di mas means “it is very good”. If you are eating at someone’s home and you really want to flatter your host, you can say the meal is rei de sabi literally translating as “the king of good”. This expression can be used to describe most anything from food and music, to a state of being.
Example: If someone asks “How was the party? You can respond O nha mae, sta sab de mas”, which we now know translates to “Oh my goodness, it was very good!”
Ta ba ta bai – Commonly used on São Nicolau, this Cape Verdean phrase is a response meaning “it’s going”.
Example: Someone asks “how are you doing today?” You may respond “ta ba ta bai.”
Tchuba ta tchobi – Literally translating as “the rain is raining”, this expression is used simply to indicate that it is raining.
Example: You walk inside, drenched from the rain, and alert your friends that indeed “tchuba ta tchobi”.
Tomá um pinguin – Often used when referring to an alcoholic beverage, this phrase means “to take a sip”.
Example: “Come over here and try this grogue (rum), tomá um pinguin.”
Txin-txin – This expression equates to saying “cheers!”
Example: Raise your glass of grogue and say “txin-txin”!
Common Words and Exclamations
Basofu –(adj.) elegant; showy; extravagant
Bulea – (n.) free ride; hitchhiking is very common in Cape Verde, so knowing this word will certainly be useful
Claro – (expression) duh; obviously; of course
Fixe/ Fixola – (adj.) cool
Fla-fla – (n.) This word literally translates to “talk-talk”, meaning gossip
Fofa – (adj./n.) A term of endearment meaning cute. You can use it as an adjective or as a noun by calling someone “nha (my) fofa”.
Fusko; Moku – (adj.) drunk
Gatita – (n.) cat; sexy girl
Malcriôde – (n.) miscreant; someone who is poorly raised
Morabeza – (n.) This is truly a creole word as it does not translate into Portuguese. It is a word referring specifically to Cape Verdean warmth and hospitality. You may thank a host saying “Obrigada pa bo morabeza” meaning “thank you for your hospitality.” For more on Cape Verdean morabeza, take a peek at our other article .
Moço/ Mos – (expression) dude/man/bro
Volvu – (n.) granny panties
Xata – (adj.); This word is often used to describe a clingy or overly jealous girlfriend, although it really just refers to a crazy/annoying female
Insults, Cursing and other Vulgarities
Anda na cominho ku – This basically means to have sex
Bai pa merda –This expression equates to “f*ck off”.
Da raiba – This is an expression for “piss off”.
Gustoso/Gustosa – This word translates to “tasty”, but is often used to mean desirable or sexy.
Krika bu mae – This expression means “your mom’s vagina”. It is not used as an insult, but rather as an exclamation. If someone accidentally drop something, or if someone is startled, you may hear them yell out krika by mae!
Mata porku – Although this expression translates literally to “kill a pig”, it refers to the act of having sex.
Nha kre ovo – This is an expression meaning “I want some loving”.
Peixe/Cabeça de peixe – Peixe literally translates to fish, but it is also a common word for penis. Cabeça means head, so you can figure the rest out. This is a good word to know, otherwise you will be an easy target for jokes. I had a whole conversation with a group of teenagers in creole talking about how I like peixe, but I won’t touch Cabeça de peixe because they are scary looking. Of course I was referring to fish, and not wanting to eat fish heads, but being teenagers, they decided to interpret this the other way. They had a laugh and I was confused, that is until I discovered the other meaning of this word.
Sab pa kaga – This saying means “cool as shit.”
Ta fest ti koku – This basically translates to “I’m gonna party ‘til I shit.”
Planning a trip to Cape Verde? Be sure to check out our list of must-try local dishes.
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