The Portuguese Alphabet

There are 26 letters in the Portuguese Alphabet just as there are in the American alphabet. The letters K, W and Y used to be considered foreign letters, but after the last orthographic reform in 2009, they were incorporated into the regular Portuguese alphabet.

Those letters will continue to be used in measurement symbols as km for quilômetro (kilometer), km for quilograma (Kilo), and W for watt;  in foreign words and proper names: show, playboy, playground, windsurf, kun fu, yin, yang, kafkiano, Kafka,  Katia, Kilma, William, Wallace, Yara.

Here is the new Portuguese alphabet and the names of the letters:


Let’s look at some examples of words starting with each letter of the alphabet in Portuguese and compare the sound of each letter to the closest sound found in words in English. The position of the letters in the English word may vary, and the words in English may not necessarily have the same meaning as the words in Portuguese. What we’re trying to do here is to find matching sounds or close sounds in the two languages.

Letter A: água  ~ father – letter a sounds like the a in the word father.

Letter B: bom  ~  base – letter b sounds just like the b in word base.

Letter C:

  • centro  ~  center – letter c ifollowed by either an e or an ,has a soft sound as in center.      
  • canto, conta, custo   ~  car  –  letter c followed by either an a, an o or a u has a hard sound as in car, count.

Letter D: dado  ~  dance – letter d always has the sound of the d in the word dance.

Letter E: 

eco ~ echo – letter e at the beginning of a word may be either open as the e in echo, or closed as at the first e in edelweiss. It is also open, no matter the position in the word, whenever it carries the accute stress mark as in café, and closed whenever it carries the circumflex stress mark as in bebê. It can also sound like the name of the letter e in English as at the beginning of e-commerce when following a consonant at the end of a word as in leve or when it is at the beginning of a word, followed by an s as in esmalte.

Letter Ffato ~ fact – letter f sounds exactly as it does in English.

Letter G:

  • gato  ~  gun  –  when the g  is followed by an a, an o or a uit has a hard sound like the g in gun.                
  • gente  ~  leisure  –  when the g followed by an e or an i, it sounds like the s in leisure. 

Letter H:  

  • hora  ~  hour  – letter h is always silent in Portuguese as it is in word hour. So just ignore it when you see it.


Letter I: idade ~ deed – letter always sounds like ee as in deed no matter which position it’s located in a word.

Letter J:  

  • jato  ~  leisure  –  the j is also always pronounced like the s in leisure no matter which vowel follows it.

Letter K: 

  • Katia, kibom  ~  kiwi  –  the k always has a hard sound no matter which vowel follows it.                    

Letter L:  

  • lata, mala ~  late  – letter l at the beginning of a word and between vowels always sounds like the l in English as in late.
  • mil  ~  view  – the l in the end of the word is going to sound pretty much like a w in English.


Letter M:  

  • mala, mama ~  mom – letter m at the beginning of a word and between vowels sounds like the m in English as in the word mom.
  • cem ~ cent  – the sound of the m at the end of a word has a sound similar to that of the n in english as in the word cent, but it’s a bit longer.

Letter N:  

  • nota, mano ~ note – letter at the beginning of a word and between vowels sounds like the n in English.

Letter O:  

  • olá  ~  awkward – letter o at the beginning of a word and between vowels sounds like the o in English.
  • lad~ doodle – letter o at the end of a word sounds like oo in the word doodle.

letter P:  

  • pato  ~  pot – letter p sounds just like it would in English. 

Letter R:  

  • roda ~ porta   –  carro   ~  hot.                     

Letter r always sounds like the h in English at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word when followed by a consonant, and when it’s doubled which always occurs between two vowels.

Letter S:  

  • sal  ~  salt  –  the s always has a soft sound as in salt when it is positioned at the beginning of a word no matter which vowel follows it.    
  • massa  ~  mass  –  the double ss has a soft sound as ss in mass.
  • esporte  ~  sport  –  the s before a consonant sounds soft as in the word sport.
  • preciso   ~ precise  –  the s between two vowels sounds like a z as in precise.

Letter T:  

  • tato ~ total

 Letter U:  

  • uva  ~  juice

Letter V: 

  • vela  ~ very

 Letter W: 

  • Wilma  ~  vote

 Letter Y:  

  • Yara ~  year

Letter Z: 

  • zebra  ~ zebra


If you enjoyed this information and you’re just starting on your journey of Portuguese learning, be sure to check out the Starter Guide.



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