I am trying to figure out which is the most indubious translation of município or concelho with these meanings:

  • Circunscrição territorial em que se exerce a jurisdição de uma vereação.
  • Subdivisão do distrito administrativo composta de uma ou mais freguesias. = CÂMARA, MUNICÍPIO

Municipality seems to be the most common translation but it resembles a lot municipalidade which I preferably want to avoid, since it can be interpreted as a township and may have several meanings depending on the country.

County on the other hand, resembles a lot more condado than concelho and towns are not necessarily municípios. Finally, a city in some cases has an exact match with a município in Portugal...

Therefore, in a formal/specification document, if I am to use a translation of município or concelho with a maximum of a couple of English words to define it solely as a territory composed by a group of parishes (freguesias), which word(s) should I use?

It would also be interesting to know the origin of the word município since Portuguese and Spanish seem the only languages to use this word and even google translates it to ciudad, when in Spanish the word municipio exists.

  • More than once you say you're worried about which Portuguese words certain English words resemble. In general this should be irrelevant, as the English translation is for English speakers, not Portuguese speakers. Is there something specific about the audience you're translating for that would make this more relevant? Could you add this to your question?
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 19:14
  • @DanGetz I was curious and wanted to be more certain about the most popular translation before using it. The audience is worldwide so I wanted to specifically refer to the territory itself and not to the group of people who govern it. Perhaps you didn't check the links but I found other words that could possibly refer to this territory more precisely, such as "township". If found though it has more ambiguous meanings (depending on the country it's used) than "municipality". So with Jacinto's answer I will be more confident in using this word.
    – Armfoot
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


Municipality is the best equivalent to both município and municipalidade. No need to be troubled by this, because one of the meanings of municipalidade is município.

The Oxford Learner’s dictionary defines municipality as:

(1) a town, city, or district with its own local government; (2) the group of officials who govern it.

Definition (1) is the primary meaning of the Portuguese word município, whereas (2) is the primary meaning of the Portuguese word municipalidade. Quoting from the Dicionário da Academia das Ciências de Lisboa:

Município. (Do latim municipium) (1) Histórico Cidade conquistada, no tempo dos romanos, com direito a administrar-se pelas suas próprias leis, e cujos habitantes gozavam dos direitos civis de cidadania romana. (2) Circunscrição territorial administrada por uma vereação, por uma câmara municipal, superintendida por um presidente. (4) Brasil Circunscrição administrativa autónoma do Estado, governada por um prefeito e uma câmara de vereadores.

Municipalidade (1) Conjunto de pessoas eleitas pelo povo de um município para administrar os seus interesses = Vereação. (4) Circuscrição territorial em que uma vereação exerce a sua jurisdição = Concelho, Munícipio.

Município comes straight from the Latin municipium, and, ultimately, so does the English word municipality. DACL's definition (1) basically explains what a municipium was, but for more you can always count on Wikipedia.

  • Thanks for the details, I also found in your Oxford link that there's a link to the their other English "advanced dictionary" which has a little more about its etymology: «late 18th cent.: from French municipalité, from municipal from Latin municipalis (from municipium ‘free city’, from municeps, municip- ‘citizen with privileges’, from munia ‘civic offices’) + capere ‘take’».
    – Armfoot
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 10:43
  • 1
    It makes sense that the English sould come from French. The Wikipedia article says quite a bit about the roman municipium too.
    – Jacinto
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 11:30

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