I have translated both "school year" and "academic year" into Portuguese.

In US "school year" refer to period of time in high school or lower levels of education. "academic year" refers to period of time in universities

I have three translations there:

ano escolar

ano letivo

ano acadêmico

Which ones refer to high school and which one refer to university?

hypothesis: "ano escolar" refers to high school, "ano acadêmico" refers to university, and "ano letivo" I do not know.

note: I prefer Brazilian Portuguese

Thank you.


2 Answers 2


In Brazilian Portuguese we use all three forms you've mentioned:

"ano escolar" is used mainly for primary and secondary schools. It usually begins in Feb/March and ends in November/early December.

"ano acadêmico" is used for Universities. It can cover the same period as "ano escolar" but not necessarily so. "Um ano acadêmico" may well begin in August and end in June the next year. It all depends on which course you are taking, its duration and when it begins.

"ano letivo" can be used for any kind of educational institution. It's by far the most common form to refer to either school year or academic year.

  • Ano acadêmico é mais uma contagem de anos de duração de cursos, acredito. Mesmo porque universidades têm calendário acadêmico, pois seus anos letivos (lecionar, lição, aula) costumam ser divididos em dois semestres com matérias específicas por semestre. Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 10:55

In Portugal, ano letivo is the most general expression used. The word letivo originates from lição which is lesson. So, no matter the level of education, it all works with lessons. So that's the general expression.

The other two are therefore more specialised expressions. Ano escolar is used up to and in high school and ano académico is indeed used in all higher education contexts. Education institutions up to high school are mostly simply called as escola (in English, school), so from there the designation ano escolar. Universities and other higher education institutions are also called academia (in english, academy), so it seems to explain ano académico.

Having said this, both on lower or higher education levels ano letivo is always right and can be used.

There is yet another expression which is ano curricular. That refers to following a curriculum which, again, is transversal to all levels of education really. All students follow a curriculum. Nonetheless this expression is used again mostly in higher levels of education because of the less structured character of curricula. What I mean is, university students can opt between different paths in their education, by choosing different subjects in the same area of studies, so they often end up creating their own curriculum. From there ano curricular.

EDIT: The difference between ano curricular and ano letivo is that the first refers only to the study activities (everything one has to do to complete a subject) while the latter includes the first and also refers to all the extra activities (also called extracurricular activities) that happen in that period. Here think, for example, about holidays.

The expressions and their application are correct while the explanation represent my view of things. Should I be wrong, please correct me.

  • Vitor, I am guessing that the ano curricular is independent of the curriculum being organized in years or semesters, right?
    – ANeves
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 15:59
  • @ANeves that is correct. I had to do some research and I edited my original answer and can also answer you with more certainty. Inside the ano curricular you can have semestre curricular or trimestre curricular even. Take this as an example.
    – Vitor
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 18:51
  • "c) «Ano curricular», «semestre curricular» e «trimestre curricular» as partes do plano de estudos do curso que, de acordo com o respectivo instrumento legal de aprovação, devam ser realizadas pelo estudante, quando em tempo inteiro e regime presencial, no decurso de um ano, um semestre ou um trimestre lectivo, respectivamente;" retirado de Alínea c) do artigo 3.º do Decreto-Lei n.º 42/2005, de 22 de Fevereiro (Portugal).
    – Jorge B.
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 9:10

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