Negro vs. preto

In this lesson, I came across two words that both translate as black: ❤❤❤❤❤ (familiar from Spanish) and preto. Does anyone know if these words are interchangeable or have different uses in Brazilian Portuguese? Thanks for any insight!

November 28, 2012


Note: ❤❤❤❤❤ = n.e.g.r.o (this word is censored by the software)

In Brazil, it is considered rude to say someone is black (preto) but we say "he/she is "n.e.g.r.o(a)"

For things, we say "black"....

  • black shoes (sapatos pretos)
  • black book (livro preto)
  • black tie (gravata preta)

There are some expressions that use "❤❤❤❤❤"...

  • "A situação está negra" = "The situation is complicated / a hard predicament"
  • "Minha amiga tem pele negra" = "My friend has black skin"
  • "Nuvens negras" (black clouds) [when it's cloudy and it's gonna rain]
  • "Você está na minha lista negra" = You're in my black list [when someone does something you didn't like]

Hope it can help you.....

November 28, 2012

Just to increment the answer, when you want to say about the evil side of someone you use "❤❤❤❤❤" too. E.g. "Come to the dark side! (we have cookies)" is translated as "Venha para o lado ❤❤❤❤❤!"

March 13, 2013

Interesting, in Spanish we have prieto which means dark skinned (not necessarily black) and it is quite common in colloquial speech and even as a compliment, for instance the words, prieta Linda (pretty dark skinned girl) are very common in Mexican folk music. Negr@ depending on the tone in which it is said or the region, might be offensive. The expression Mi Negra (my blacky) though is a familiar and even affectionate way to refer to woman (wives, girlfriends) in some countries, and is also quite common in Latin American folklore. Very interesting to compare two languages that are very close cousins.

March 11, 2013

Working with a range of Mexican laborers, I'd always seen "prieto" thrown around as a light-hearted insult...just in the same way they'd say that the darker-skinned guys were Guatemalan (they weren't).

October 10, 2013

It seems like preto means black and ❤❤❤❤❤ means dark

August 18, 2014


July 20, 2013

ahhhh, I see what you're saying, it helped alot THANKS!!!

January 13, 2016

Some other tips:

  • When I said “PRETO for someone is considered rude”, I meant to say it is really bad! If you say that for someone, this person can call the police in order to arrest you! It’s considered prejudice!

  • I think this tip is not so necessary, but let’s give it a try: it’s not correct to say someone has “olhos negros” (black eyes), but almost all Brazilians use this expression. It’s not scientific correct to say “olhos negros” because they don’t exist! But over 90% Brazilians don’t know this information and use “olhos negros”. The correct is to say “olhos castanhos escuros” (dark brown eyes)

  • Don’t forget that most of Brazilian colors follow masculine/feminine and singular/plural forms! “Black” is one of them. Some examples: “A calçA pretA”, “O vestidO pretO” ,“AS calçAS PretAS”, “OS vestidOS pretOS” (just don’t forget that for things we use “preto”

  • Other expressions using PRETO / ❤❤❤❤❤:

. “a coisa (es)tá ficando preta” ( lit. “the thing is getting dark”) dark on this case means “bad”, “dangerous” or “difficult”.

. “pôr o preto no branco” (lit. “put the black in the white”) means “get something down in writing”

Hope it is clearer for you now :) any other question, just ask!

November 29, 2012

Thanks for this reference. In England the expression "a black eye" is a dark bruise surrounding the eye as a result of being thumped hard. There was even a Music Hall song :"Two lovely black eyes"x 2;"Oh, what a surprise" x2; "only for telling a man he was wrong - two lovely black eyes." A sad reflection on domestic violence in Victorian society, it had the audience rolling in the aisles. My grandmother, born in 1891, was a miner's wife, and could tell a lot about that when the "old man" came home drunk.

April 5, 2013

In portuguese when you want to say someone has a "black eye" you say: Ele está com o olho roxo (purple eye).

January 29, 2014

Woww.... thats piece of information is really a treasure.... thank you so very much for that! Thats rly amazing !

April 5, 2013

American English is the same regarding "black eye"

October 14, 2015

Hmm, I didn't think that preto was racist necessarily because I hear it often in songs... " pretinha" things like that

November 2, 2013

In the wrong way it could be, but it's not racist necessarily indeed. It could be even a really warm-hearted and tender term of endearment between couples, family members or good friends: like "preta", "preto", "pretinha", "pretinho", "minha pretinha" or "meu pretinho". There are some other informal terms you could use as an endearment term in that kind of relationship, such: "nêgo", "neguinho", "nêga", "neguinha" (preceded by possessive pronouns "meu" or "minha" especially for couples). But important: to call someone like that you need to have a good relationship and the sensibility to know if that kind of term it's socially ok for him or her.

In brazilian music one could find a lot of romantic songs references reassuring what i just write and as Iowellsburning just notice. We are very multicultural here in Brazil, and is really common this kind of nicknames not only for people with black skin, but for people with all sort of skin tones.

For white people inclusive, it's uncommon but not rare nor absurd to call some dearest friend of preta, preto, nêgo or nêga. But for brown/black-haired white people it's a more common address "morena" and "moreno" as tender endearment terms because these last two terms also could mean either brunette or a darker skin tone. Another common endearment term for white people is "branquinha", meaning little white girl, and "branquinho", meaning little white boy.

P.S: Some personal examples: I address to my best friend as "nêgo" (he's white) and to my girlfriend as "morena" (a brunette with mediterranean skin tone) .

P.P.S.: Never call/address someone a way you don't know if it's liked by the person called. And despite the very light relationship brazilians apparently have with our own skin tone, it's definitely rude call someone you don't have yet an informal relationship by mentioning his/her skin color, the same way I think it is on the most part of the world.

P.P.P.S.: Some of the mentioned songs: Novos Baianos - Preta Pretinha; João Gilberto - Morena Rosa; Caetano Veloso - Beleza Pura; Caetano Veloso - A Tua Presença Morena; Jorge Ben Jor - Menina Mulher da Pele Preta; Jorge Ben Jor - Que Nêga É Essa; Seu Jorge - Pretinha; Luiz Gonzaga - Vem Morena; Vinicius de Moraes - Samba da Bênção; Vinicius de Moraes - Morena Flor; Secos Molhados - Preto Velho; Ney Matogrosso - A Tua Presença Morena; Alceu Valença - Morena Tropicana; Elizeth Cardoso - Nêgo.

November 13, 2013

I also don't think preta is racist. As a black person, I actually prefer it over negra because negra has so many negative connotations in everyday language and has some very negative synonyms in the dictionary. However, preta/o can be used as an insult so it really depends on the tone of your voice and with whom you are speaking. There are some people who may take offense to being called preta/o so most just say ❤❤❤❤❤/a to play it safe.

December 15, 2018

Thank you, Paul, for pointing out these subtleties. At least for the area of Brazil from which my wife comes (Bahia and Minas Gerlais), it is very offensive to call an individual "❤❤❤❤❤/a" too, and can result in the fines you mention.

May 25, 2015

well... white = branco, different from black = preto / "❤❤❤❤❤" in english is translated "dark", the opposite of "bright"...

November 28, 2012

Thank you very much for the very thorough response. You definitely saved me from saying something insulting. Since I usually speak Spanish, in Portuguese I would always want to say "preto" as the "less Spanish/more Portuguese" word. So, in broad sense, I should save "❤❤❤❤❤" for talking about people and in some idiomatic expressions (lista negra, etc.) and "preto" for everyday references to the color of things (a blusa preta, o chapéu preto, etc.), right?

November 29, 2012

@Paulenrique: thanks a lot for this important piece of information. I'm a native speaker of German and would have been very reluctant to use '❤❤❤❤❤' for people since calling someone a 'Neger' is rather rude (i.e. an insult) in German.

November 29, 2012

In English, as well!

May 1, 2014

that's it!! good to see you got the point! glad to help!!

November 29, 2012

My husband explained it to me like this: to speak about a person you use ❤❤❤❤❤ and when speaking about an object you use preto but calling someone ❤❤❤❤❤ to their face can be considered offensive.

April 27, 2013

That's it.

July 9, 2013

nice to learn these differences in many types of languages :) I'd love to learn German, someday...

November 29, 2012

It is a great discussion! I finally understood what "black eyed" means, because in my native language - Bulgarian - we use black eyes the same as Brazilians do. What I understood (except that that preto we use for thing and ❤❤❤❤❤ for people) is that preto can be used when something is literally black and ❤❤❤❤❤ - for something dark. Do I understand right?

January 16, 2014

yes, in short that's what it means!

January 16, 2014

@Paulenrique, thanks for the explanation. I would have been rude, not meaning to be. I would never want to be rude to these extremely courteous people in Brasil. Most of the brasileros I have met are muito educado.

November 29, 2012

I appreciate the responses here. In the United States, too, calling someone ❤❤❤❤❤ is a huge racist insult, so I would probably have used preto if I ended up talking about skin color for some reason.

October 31, 2013

While chatting with a person from Brazil, i told him he had "preto" skin and he was like "WOAH DUDE!!... don't use preto for people... preto is for things and racism... use ❤❤❤❤❤ instead", and I was like "What the heck 0.o" I thanked him obviously hahaha... funny story bro :D.

December 3, 2013

I'm really surprised, because in France "nègre" is an racist insult. So I imagined that "❤❤❤❤❤" would also ne considered rude in Portuguese, but if I understand well, "preto" is the insult, and "❤❤❤❤❤" the respectful way to say someone is black?

January 12, 2014

Yeah, that's the rule in most regions.

January 12, 2014


January 12, 2014

Both words mean the same in the Portuguese language. Their use depends on fashion and the whims of political correctness. For the color, use both interchangeably. For the name of the race, say raça negra. For the black people, say os negros or os pretos. Maybe negros is more expected. Dont't worry about that. It's an ideological question rather than a linguistic one. Neither of these words are rude by themselves. Their use to offend made one or the other rude.

Cheers from Portugal.

December 3, 2012

I agree. Both words are interchangeable in European Portuguese. But you don't call someone Preto and you don't call someone ❤❤❤❤❤, it is rude both ways. You never called someone White right in their face, did you?

October 22, 2013

Wow, good to know, obrigada

May 24, 2013

Thanks very helpful!!

June 20, 2013

I thought it was rude to call someone ❤❤❤❤❤ and that the politically correct term is preto. Am I wrong?

July 9, 2013

If you analyse the meaning itself, there's nothing wrong with both terms. But in informal speech, the word "preto" may have a rude connotation. Stick with "❤❤❤❤❤" and you won't get in trouble :)

July 9, 2013

I thought "preto" meant "brunette" or "moreno" in spanish. This is very interesting!

May 15, 2015

Preto means nothing in spanish. It's prieto.

August 10, 2016

❤❤❤❤❤ : to define that race is . preto : to define the color of an object. bye and qe hope you found anything served. postscript: I do not speak English only would translate into google . bye all

March 26, 2016

espero que le hayan gustado

March 26, 2016

A few years ago a lovely young lady came to work in my office. She explained that although her father was half Jamaican/half Bajan and her mother was English, she herself was black, and definitely not "coloured". That expression was in the same category as the "n....." word which was many years ago innocently used for what is now known as "dark" brown. It is an absolute minefield for we older folks who were born and raised long before political correctness and racism was brought into being. We can only hope that we never have a lapse of alertness to any of this, especially as dementia/Alzheimer's can rob us of our short term memory and revert to living in our younger days.

January 7, 2019
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