Portuguese Name for Grandfather

Grandfathers are important in this traditionally patriarchal culture

portuguese grandfather with grandson
Photo © JGI/Jamie Grill

The most commonly used Portuguese name for grandfather is avô. Variations are avozinho, vovô or just vo.

Interestingly, both grandmothers and grandfathers are referred to as avo, but the pronunciation is different. Avô for a grandfather is pronounced "a-voh," with the variant vovô being pronounced "vo-voh." Avó for a grandmother is pronounced "a-vaw," with the variation vovó being pronounced "vo-vaw."

Grandfathers in Portuguese Culture

Portuguese culture was very traditional and hierarchical for many years, due to its authoritarian government and to the influence of the Catholic church. Fathers and grandfathers were recognized authority figures. The society was patriarchal in the extreme, with only heads-of-household being allowed to vote. Men were the unquestioned heads of their families, but also bore total responsibility for supporting the family.

Following a 1974 coup, men and women were granted equal rights in marriage, and Portugal slowly adopted other modern ideas.

Portuguese Family Culture

It is difficult to make generalizations about family culture in Portugal due to great differences within the country. Economic status and social class influence family culture.

The extended family is very important to the upper class. The elite find it advantageous to have relatives in various government agencies, in all the political parties and in various economic sectors.

Even in the modern era marriages may be arranged to add a needed element to the mix. Besides their actual extended families, Portuguese citizens also call upon a network of contacts from school and business to protect their interests.

In the lower classes, extended family networks are less important because there are fewer interests to protect.

Portuguese Proverbs

The grandchildren might expect to hear these proverbs from the lips of their grandfathers. They capture the Portuguese culture quite eloquently.

  • Tirar o cavalinho da chuva. Take the horse from the rain. This expression can be used a couple of ways. It can mean to give up, to leave the field of battle. It can also be used to mean don't hold your breath, as in, "If you are waiting for that to happen, you can take your horse from the rain."
  • Estou cansado de engolir sapos. I'm tired of swallowing toads. This expression is used to indicate that one is fed up and isn't going to take it anymore.
  • Foi com os porcos. It went with the pigs. This is an expression to show that something is gone forever and there's no point in worrying about it.
  • São muitos anos a virar frangos! It comes from many years of turning chickens. This means that a person has a lot of experience in a certain area.
  • Estás em maus lençóis. You are in bad sheets. You are in a lot of trouble.
  • Boa como o milho. You are as good as corn. This is a way of paying a person a compliment. It is a classic Portuguese pick-up line.