A Guide to Cape Verdean Slang

A Guide to Cape Verdean Slang

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 doduThis 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 daThis 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.”

ManeiraThis 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 sabiThese 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 baiCommonly 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 tchobiLiterally 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-txinThis expression equates to saying “cheers!”

Example: Raise your glass of grogue and say “txin-txin”!

Cape Verde words to know
“Tomá um pinguin.” Tio Toi with his specialty grogue.

 

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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Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I love this and keep coming back to it. I’m a 3rd gen, CV American and trying to learn Kriolu better. This helps me out hen talking to people, practicing my language skills. Thank you for this!!

    1. I love that you are finding it helpful! I (Cici) lived in Cape Verde for two years and just fell in love with it. The people, the music, the food, the culture, the language…absolutely everything. I hope to write more articles in the future to share my fond memories. My criolu is far from perfect, but here is a little northern Crioulu for you to practice! M pode fala um poku de Criolu Barlavanto, ma 9 anos ja passa desde de m sai Santo Antao. M meste practicar mas e espera m pode voltar um dia!

  2. Thanks for the response. I just noticed this. Like I said this page helps me , so i come back every so often, that’s how I noticed your reply. Your Barlavento Kriolu I can understand just as good as the southern, which I’m used to more. My family is from Brava and Fogo, but some of the slang from those islands is way beyond my understanding lol. I speak with mostly people from Santiago online, as I’m trying to speak well enough to communicate when I visit some day soon. Ami n tanbe fala um poku. Es verdadi ki bu falam. Nu meste simpre practica. N sta Merkanu terseru( Third generation American??) Djan perdi txeu palabras di mininu(Childhood??). That was probably the worse kriolu you’ve ever read lol. I struggle with sentence structure and I just use words that I can remember. I’m trying though. 🙂 I’m hoping that after the quarantine I’ll be able to visit. My familiy in Fogo already told us they’ll take care of the place to stay, so i’m pretty excited. Do you have video, or more stories of your stay in Cape Verde?

    1. I understood every word you said! The best thing about learning Criolu is that there are no tenses. This is usally the most difficult thing in learning a language: tenses and subject-verb agreement. With that out of the way, you basically just collect vocabulary words and string them together. It won’t be perfect, but I got away with it for two years! I’m excited for you to visit Fogo. I’m really interested in learning how things have changed after the Fogo eruption in 2014. As for my videos and stories of Cape Verde…oh my goodness I have so many. I have published one other article Cape Verdean Food and Morabeza: 10 Traditional Dishes You Must Try. I also want to write about the Festival de San Joao, dancing in Carnival on both Sao Nicolao and Sao Vicente, Cape Verdean wedding traditions, etc. Do you have any recommendations of what you would like to read about?

  3. Yup I’ve read that article a few times also! Some of the dishes I’ve never experienced, so I enjoyed that article. Me personally, I’d like to read about your experiences with the locals(like you have been sharing) and just personal stories about interacting with the people.Like things that were a cultural shock, for instance. The festivals would be a great piece to write about, those are exciting to be a part of. I’d love to see videos of anything there. I REALLY can’t wait to go there, as you can tell. Do you have an IG page?

    1. Great! Well you have ignited my excitement for posting more Cape Verdean content! Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out our IG Lovicarious Make sure you give us a follow so that you don’t miss our CV content. I have some exciting photos and articles about local DC area adventures, but after that I will try to post some Cape Verdean photos as well as blog posts just for you! Muito obrigada for continuing to support our blog. Love heaving your feedback and knowing that you are finding the content helpful!

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