I have translated both shovel and spade into Portuguese, and I got the same result: "pá (f)".

Is my translation wrong?

How do people in Brazil differentiate between them (one word for two different things)?

  • A shovel is used for removing things that are already on a surface;

  • A spade is used for digging into the ground. Also a spade has a handle at the end, a shovel doesn't have it.

This image compares the two.

And this Garden Products Review and the Wikipedia articles on spades and shovels further explain the differences.

EDITED: A friend just told me this: pá(shovel) pá de corte (spade), is that right?

  • pá de lixo is a dustpan!!!, that is a completely different thing
    – cornejo
    Oct 25, 2016 at 16:11
  • @cornejo eu diria que é tudo por terras de Camões.
    – Jorge B.
    Oct 25, 2016 at 16:24
  • As far as I know there is no different word to distinguish the two in everyday European Portuguese language, we just use 'pá' for both Oct 25, 2016 at 23:33
  • 1
    Cornejo, your first image of a spade and shovel are a bit confusing: the shovel is not the most common type of shovel, and the spade looks too much like a shovel too me. Oxford Learner's Dictionary has a nice picture of a shovel and spade side by side.
    – Jacinto
    Oct 30, 2016 at 23:14
  • 1
    Also shovels can have handles at the end too; it's just the ones in your picture that don't have one. Again see Oxford dictionary or Google images for shovel
    – Jacinto
    Oct 30, 2016 at 23:16

2 Answers 2


Is my translation wrong?

Absolutely not. Both tools would be immediately called "pá" by most Brazilians, including the ones whose living rely on maneuvering them.

How do people in Brazil differentiate between them (one word for two different things)?

Actually, "pá" is a broad term for many similarly shaped tools, regardless of their utility. Most manual workers have had low access to formal education, thus their vocabulary is, on average, slim. They distinguish them by adding descriptors (color, brand, size, etc) to the word "pá".

A shovel is usually the standard image that comes to mind when thinking of the word "pá". No additional descriptors are needed, but, if you need to emphasize it, it would be described as "pá de bico" (beak-shaped "pá"). A spade is usually called "pá quadrada" (square-shaped "pá").

There's also "vanga", which is similar to "pá" but with the blade parallel to the handle. It could be either a spade or a shovel, really. This term is not widely known, however, I've seen very few people actually use it, although most hardware stores workers will recognize it.


Portuguese for shovel is , a spade is thought of by Portuguese speakers as a type of , and most people won't know any name for it other than (I didn't). So if precision is not required you can call a spade . Say, you could point to a spade and ask, “Posso usar aquela pá?” If precision is required, you do indeed find lots of Brazilian online shops that sell spades under the name pá de corte or, as mentioned in Ramon’s answer, vanga. Just look up pá de corte and pá vanga in Google Images. For instance this Brazilian merchant’s website, partially reproduced below, calls the spade both pá de corte and vanga.

a partial screenshot of the website mentioned above

These names do not appear in standard dictionaries. I did however find vanga in some specialised dictionaries, such as this one and this one. Standard dictionaries such as Houaiss and Aulete have pá direita (‘straight ’) with the meaning of spade though. Here’s Aulete:

1 Tipo de pá adequado para cavar a terra.

But then you basically will not find pá direita on the web. I found a few examples of pá reta though; reta meaning the same as direita in this context.

So the most common names are pá de corte and vanga. However these names appear almost only in merchant’s websites. You’ll find them in only a half-a-dozen recent books in Google Books (this compares to more than 500 books containing enxada, ‘hoe’). This shows these names are mainly trade jargon, and largely unknown to the layman.

As you may have gathered from people’s reaction so far, if you show a Portuguese speaker a spade or a shovel the odds are they’ll indifferently tell you it is a . That is how I would react, and I come from a family of farmers. I am from Portugal, and don’t know how typical my experience would be in Brazil or indeed in other parts of Portugal. We had all sort of agricultural tools at home, but no spades; for digging farmland we only used hoes. We had round mouth shovels, just , and square mouth shovels, or pá quadrada. Both are used to lift soil, sand, etc. and carry, pour or throw it somewhere (spades are not good for that because they're narrow, flat and without raised edges, so the soil would fall off the edges); round mouth shovels are good to thrust into a pile of stuff, whereas square mouth are better to gather stuff that is more scattered on flat surfaces.

enter image description here This is a , or pá de bico if you must be precise; and this is a pá quadrada, but simply will also do.


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