Portuguese is a wonderful and complex language that’s spoken all around the world. Whether your friend, colleague, loved one, or family member speaks the language, wishing them happy birthday in Portuguese will surprise and impress them.
Primarily spoken in Portugal and Brazil, it’s thought that there are 250 million native speakers and 24 million second-language speakers worldwide. That’s huge. That means the chances of you knowing someone who speaks Portuguese are pretty high.
With that in mind, what are the different birthday traditions in Portugal and Brazil, how can you wish someone a happy birthday in Portuguese, and what other congratulatory phrases are worth knowing? Let’s dive in and find out!
How to Say Happy Birthday in Portuguese
There are a couple of ways to wish someone a happy birthday and some are definitely more formal than others. I’ll go into the ways to say happy birthday in Portuguese and then I’ll give you a load of more general celebratory phrases that you can say to someone on their special day.
Okay, so probably the most common way to wish someone a happy birthday, isn’t by saying happy birthday at all. The word “Parabéns”, pronounced as puh-ruh-beh-ins, really is just like saying congratulations and can be used for a variety of celebrations.
Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, new job, new house, or a kid scoring a goal in a tournament, parabéns works well for all of them. It’s a super versatile word that has to be in your Portuguese locker.
If you’re looking for a more literal way to say happy birthday in Portuguese, you can say feliz aniversário, pronounced feh-liz ah-ni-vehr-sah-ri-oo, which directly translates as happy anniversary.
This is a bit more formal so it’s better if you’re speaking to an elder, someone in power, or someone you don’t know very well.
Of course, both the pronunciations of these will vary slightly based on whether you’re speaking European Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese.
Remember, if you’re using Duolingo to learn Portuguese, you can switch between European and Brazilian Portuguese based on which one is relevant to you – there are some major differences that you’ll need to know about!
More Congratulatory Phrases in Portuguese
Sometimes you don’t want to just say happy birthday, maybe you want something more personal or maybe you want a more general congratulatory message. Again, the pronunciations of these words and phrases will vary on whether you’re speaking European Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese.
We’ve already spoken about Parabéns which means congratulations and covers a ton of different kidneys of events and occasions. If you’re ever unsure of what to say to someone on their special day, this is the word to reach for.
If you want something a little more formal, you can say ‘Tudo de bom’, which translates as all the best. This is something that you can write on a card or say to them in person.
It’s also a good way to end a phone call or email if you’re looking for non-birthday-related situations.
Another good formula for wishing someone well is to start a sentence with ‘Desejo-lhe’ or ‘Lhe desejo’, meaning ‘I wish you’. You can then add any of the following sentiments afterward as you see fit.
- Sorte, meaning luck
- Saúde, meaning health
- Sucesso, meaning success
- Felicidades, meaning happiness
So if you want to say ‘I wish you happiness’ you’d say ‘Desejo-lhe felicidades’ or ‘Lhe desejo felicidades’, depending on the person’s gender.
Birthday-Related Words and Phrases in Portuguese
If you’re going to someone’s birthday party or event, there are some common words and phrases that you might want to be aware of. Here is a selection of popular birthday terms in Portuguese that you might come across.
- ‘Festa de aniversário’ which means Birthday party
- ‘Bolo de aniversário’ which means Birthday cake
- ‘Tradições de aniversário’ which means Birthday traditions
- ‘Cartão de aniversário’ which means Birthday card
- ‘Tenha um dia maravilhoso’ which means have a wonderful day
- ‘Hoje é dia de festa’ which means Today is a party day
- ‘É um dia especial’ which means It is a special day
- ‘Família’ which means Family
- ‘Vela’ which means Candle
- ‘Presente de aniversário’ which means Birthday gift
- ‘Desejo que tenhas um aniversário maravilhoso’ which means I hope you have a wonderful birthday.
Obviously, some of these will be more relevant than others, and some might sound a bit too formal for the situation that you find yourself in.
How to Sing Happy Birthday in Portuguese
Who doesn’t love the happy birthday song? It’s so embarrassing for so many people and often means that cake isn’t too far away. In both European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese the happy birthday song, otherwise known as the Parabéns pra Você is an important part of the birthday traditions.
So, with the Portuguese happy birthday song, there are two variations between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, as well as an extended version that you probably should know about.
So for the European Portuguese version the song is:
Parabéns pra você
Nesta data querida
Muitos anos de vida
Parabéns pra você
Nesta data querida
Muitos anos de vida
Which translates to:
Happy birthday to you
On this wonderful day
Many years of life
The Brazilian Portuguese version of the happy birthday song is slightly different:
Parabéns a você
Nesta data querida
Muitos anos de vida
Hoje é dia de festa
Cantam as nossas almas
Para o(a) menino(a) [name of birthday boy/girl]
Uma salva de palmas
This different second verse translates as:
Today’s for celebrating
Let our souls sing
For our boy/girl [name]
A round of applause
Just to add more complexity into the mix, the birthday song can either be the two key verses outlined above, or someone may continue to sing the third and fourth verses that go like this:
Hoje o/a [name] faz anos
Porque Deus assim quis
O que nós desejamos
É que seja feliz
Tenha tudo de bom
O que a vida contem
Tenha muita saúde
E amigos também
Today it’s [name]’s birthday
Because God wanted it so
What we can only wish
Is that they’ll be happy
May they only have good things
All that life can give
May they have plenty of health
And friends, too
Check out this video from Youtube to make sure you are pronouncing the words correctly:
It’s a long birthday song to learn unless you’re doing the European Portuguese two-verse edition! Of course, if you’re just starting out, focus on the first verse, and your friend or loved one will really appreciate the effort.
You can find a lot of versions of the Parabéns pra Você on YouTube both in European and Brazilian Portuguese, so you can listen and really get a feel for the pronunciation and flow of the song. Keep listening and memorize the lyrics like you would any other song!
Popular Birthday Milestones in Portugal
Like a lot of countries, birthday people in Portugal have a number of milestones where the celebrations get a little larger than usual.
The main ones are in multiples of 10, so 30th, 40th, 50th, etc. but there are a few other key milestones that signal some major changes or opportunities in Portuguese people’s lives.
At 16: You can get a motorcycle driving license, and drive it once you’ve passed a test which is pretty cool. At 16, you are also legally able to work, so welcome to adulthood…
At 18: Like in a lot of countries, this is a big milestone to hit. Once you’re 18, you’re an adult and can vote, marry, drink alcohol and buy it, drive any vehicle as long as you’ve passed the test, and more!
This birthday normally has a giant party filled with booze to celebrate the birthday person legally being allowed to drink, party, and go out.
At 21: This one isn’t quite as fun, but under Portugal’s legal system, you can be trialed as a juvenile up until you’re 21, so this means that you’re officially an adult and can be tried and sentenced as one. So, not really a cause for celebration, but worth keeping in mind if you’re in trouble in Portugal.
Popular Birthday Milestones in Brazil
With different cultures and legal allowances, come some different birthday milestones. Although a lot of the major birthday milestones like the 30th and 50th birthdays are still celebrated in a big way in Brazil, there are also some different ones in Brazil, so let’s take a look.
At 14: You’re eligible to work, but only as an apprentice. This is the only way you can legally work until you’re 16. So it means you’re being educated as you work, and working towards a qualification as you complete your trade.
At 16: Once you’re 16 you can get a full-time job that has a contract and everything. At 16 you can even vote too which is pretty cool! At this point, voting isn’t mandatory, but as you’re a working person now, you can start having a say in where your taxes and interests go!
At 18: Voting is mandatory if you’re 18, so politics is really important. Get educated and read up on it! Once you’re 18 you can marry, drink booze, buy a house, get a driver’s license, and legally get arrested. So, it’s a big year and one that definitely has a giant celebration to go along with it.
Popular Birthday Traditions in Portugal
In Portugal, for many people, their birthday starts at midnight with you staying up to wish them a happy birthday. If you prefer to sleep, your loved ones might wake you up with cards, breakfast, and the birthday song to start your special day off right!
When you’re young, a birthday party is a rite of passage. However, if your birthday falls on a school day, your birthday party will be the weekend after, never the weekend before. This ranges from going to a venue that caters to kid-friendly birthday parties like climbing gyms, amusement parks, and more.
You can also have a smaller party at home and hire an entertainer or games. Remember, cake and snacky junk food is a must! We’re thinking popcorn, jello, pasteis de natas, and tons of other delicious and unhealthy things!
Of course, a birthday cake is a guarantee, and normally the flavor is dependent on what the birthday person wants!
As you get older, there are two parts to birthdays. The family part means a creaking table filled with delicious treats and wine, including cheeses, pieces of bread, cured meats, pastries, and obviously cake. It’s a big feast and the extended family is gathered to celebrate.
The second part is all about your friends. It’s customary to go out on your birthday to a club, bar, or restaurant with your friends.
If it’s a work night, you can celebrate the following weekend, like you’d do as a kid, and go all out, or you can just go for a nice meal and a couple of drinks on your actual birthday. It all depends on you – after all, it’s your special day.
When it comes to gifts, it’s always optional unless it’s family or a child. Kids get gifts, that’s the rule! Depending on how close your family is, you might make gifts mandatory, especially on bigger birthdays, however as you get older, gifts are not guaranteed and shouldn’t automatically be expected.
Popular Birthday Traditions in Brazil
Many of the traditions in Brazil are similar to the Portuguese celebrations, especially when it comes to adult birthdays. Family get-togethers are expected, but so are nights out and drinking with your friends.
When it comes to children’s parties, there will be a load of school friends and neighborhood kids invited, but most of the time, the only adults that will be present are the parents.
There’s a separate party for the family and everyone is expected to bring a gift. Coming empty-handed to a kid’s birthday event is a big no-no.
As with a lot of Brazilian events and celebrations, food plays a central role. Fried dumplings filled with potato and shredded chicken called coxinhas are huge favorites and are often served as appetizers before the kids sit down for something more substantial.
The end of a kid’s birthday party in Brazil is marked by the parents bringing out a cake. After everyone has sung the birthday song and the birthday person has blown out the candles, they choose to who the first slice of cake goes.
This is a massive honor and one that is eagerly anticipated, especially with playground politics. However, more often than not, the first slice goes to one of the parents as a sign of respect and love. It’s cute.
How to Talk About Age in Portuguese
Like in a lot of cultures, age can be a touchy subject, especially if you’re asking a woman for their age. This is something that is very much alive in the Portuguese and Brazilian communities. So, if you want to know someone’s age, you can ask:
Quantos anos tem or Qual a sua idade?
These translate as ‘How old are you?‘ and ‘What’s your age?‘), respectively.
The answers you might receive will obviously vary and they’ll either tell you their age by saying Tenho 36 anos, meaning I am 36 years old, or they might say:
Não é da sua conta!
This is a reasonable response and translates to ‘It’s none of your business!‘.
Now You Know How to Say Happy Birthday in Portuguese!
So, there are a lot of different ways to celebrate someone’s birthday in Portuguese. Depending on if they’re European or Brazilian the pronunciation, birthday song, and traditions will all differ, but a lot of the key birthday languages will stay the same.
Central to all Portuguese birthday traditions are family, friends, food, and a good time. I think that’s something that we can all get firmly on board with!