The following paragraph was copied from Wikipedia.

Saudade - (European Portuguese: [sɐwˈðaðɨ], Brazilian Portuguese: [sawˈdadi] or [sawˈdadʒi], Galician: [sawˈðaðe]; plural saudades) is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. A stronger form of saudade might be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.

Although I have no problem with the IPA phonetic symbols for the English Language, I'm not acquainted with their use in Portuguese. I can see, however, there is a difference between pt-BR and pt-PT. Basically, my doubt is about the first vowel sound - "ɐ" in pt-PT and "a" in pt-BR - and about the "ð" symbol which, to me, stands for the sound of "th" in "then".

My questions:

  1. What sounds do these symbols stand for? Is that really the way the word is pronounced in pt-PT?
  2. The above paragraph defines "saudade" as a deep emotional state. I disagree and to me it can be a feeling of any intensity, not necessarily deep. Am I wrong?
  • Seems like your two questions could be good as two separate questions. I agree with you on #2, but the idea expressed by Wikipedia is widely-repeated, so probably is either true in certain places, or was more true in the past. It's usually accompanied by the assertion that it's a word that "can't be translated" to other languages. With our understanding of it, on the other hand, it's a day-to-day word that's quite easy to translate.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 17:43
  • 2
    @DanGetz There is a good dissertation on the subject by Jacinto here english.stackexchange.com/questions/344040/…
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 18:17
  • @DanGetz imho number 2 isn't good enough to be a separate question.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 18:21
  • I love how surgically @Jacinto busts the "saudade" myth in that answer. That being said, I agree with you that it is not necessarily deep when used outside of a lyrical context. In fact, most times I hear it, this word is employed to convey a rather dull, pedestrian feeling.
    – Ramon Melo
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 19:07
  • 1
    @Ramon Glad you liked it. Note that the @ will only notify previous commenters (and editors).
    – Jacinto
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


Yes, [sɐwˈðaðɨ] is how the Portuguese pronounce the word. The [ɐ] is like the last a in samba as pronounced by both Brazilians and Portuguese: /’sɐ̃bɐ/. You can hear samba and saudade pronounced in Forvo; the first Portuguese on the list (Onimo) is not a good example, but the others are. And [ð] is pretty much like th in the word then.

This pronunciation of d is not particular to the word saudade: in European Portuguese the d is pronounced [d] as in English dare after pauses and nasal sounds, and [ð] as in English there (American version in OLD) otherwise. This pronunciation of the d may be shared by some Brazilian speakers, namely in the Northeast (I think this guy does it), but most Brazilians will always pronounce it [d].

However a Brazilian and a Portuguese talking to each other will likely not notice these differences. But a native English-speaking bystander might. In English [d] and [ð] are distinctive: it is for instance how English speakers tell dare from there in speech. But there is no such pair of words in Portuguese. Many Portuguese may have not realised they pronounce the d differently depending on whether it comes after a pause or nasal sound or not. In fact, in European Portuguese the same word may be pronounced with a [d] or a [ð] depending on what comes before it:

Dada a situação → [’daðɐ]…
E dada a situação → [i ‘ðaðɐ]…

b and g (as in gato) follow the same pattern. This “softening” of the b, d, and g is called lenition and has been discussed in this question.

The [ɐw] European Portuguese pronunciation is peculiar indeed. In European Portuguese the unstressed single a is usually pronounced [ɐ], but the diphthong au is usually pronounced [aw], as in Brazil, even if unstressed, as in caução, laureado, ou tauromaquia. Saudade may be the only word where au is pronounced [ɐw].

And this leads to one last point. Even ignoring accent differences, there actually are two pronunciations of saudade: the first bit, sau can be pronounced as a diphthong, as shown in Wikipédia, or as two syllables [sɐ.wu] or [sa.wu], in which case [ɐ] is the usual pronunciation in European Portuguese, as in saúde, saudinha, saudoso, etc. The 1943 Portuguese-Brazilian agreement (point XII-12º) actually allows the spelling saüdade to indicate this pronunciation. This trema was soon abolished in Portugal in 1945, and in Brazil in 1971. But two syllables may even have been the original pronunciation. My 1939 Cândido de Figueiredo dictionary shows saüdade only; the 1913 edition has saudade, but shows the pronunciation as sa-u.

If two syllabes was indeed the original pronunciation, it would explain the peculiar [ɐw] European Portuguese pronunciation: in Portugal the two syllables are typically pronounced [sɐ.wu]; when the two syllables contract into a diphtong the [ɐ] is kept, yielding [ɐw].

Now as to the meaning and connotations of saudade, I fully agree. In my experience, saudade covers a wide spectrum of feeling on the intensity, tragic-sweet, and poetic-prosaic, scales. Compare the saudade a mother feels a dead child to the saudade you feel for a friend you haven’t seen for a long time but are about to see again, to saudade for eating grape fruit. But I find that many people writing about saudade tend to be biased towards the tragic-poetic end of the spectrums. That Wikipedia quote is one such example. Tchrist’s answer to this question is another.

I've also written on the subject in this thread in ELU, in an answer and comments to Silenus' answer.

  • 1
    I'm inclined to think that even in my area there must be differences in the pronunciation of certain phonemes which I have never noticed. Living and learning.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:18
  • Does [ɐ] stand for the same sound as [ə] ? The phonetic symbol I use for the first "a" in "about".
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:21
  • 2
    @Centaurus They are different. See this table. However, I think the choice of symbol is somewhat conventional, so one symbol only is chosen even though pronunciation varies. I too think [ə] is closer than [ɐ] to how I pronounce those aa; or maybe [ɜ], whihc is in between in the table is the closest. We're often not aware of differences in pronunciation that do not translate in different words; many, maybe most, people do not realise the s at the end of syllable can be pronounced as jato or as chato
    – Jacinto
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:32
  • FWIW I realize that we (Brazilians) overuse the word "saudade" and, more often than not, we don't really mean it. For instance, I might say "qualquer hora eu apareço aí. Estou com saudades daquela feijoada que só tu sabes fazer." In this case there may be no feeling of "saudade" at all. All I want is to let them know I like their feijoada very much.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:57
  • @Centaurus Well, I would probably be feeling saudade for the feijoada.
    – Jacinto
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 21:11

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