The normal word for "factory" in Spanish is fábrica. However, in certain contexts, the word ingenio can also be used. For example, in La fiesta del chivo, Vargas Llosa writes in reference to a sugar mill/factory in the Dominican Republic:

cuando era jefe de guardas campestres en el ingenio Boca Chica

Is there a word in Portuguese with the same/similar Latin root that means something like factory or mill? I'm particularly curious if Brazilian Portuguese uses a word similar to ingenio to refer to sugar cane mills.

1 Answer 1


Yes, the word is engenho. It's only used for sugar mills, and sometimes referred to as engenho de cana ("cana" for sugar cane).

As @AndréLyra pointed out below, today, in Brazil, "usina de açúcar" is the most common term for sugar mill.

A few facts about the word:

  • A very common phrase with this word is senhor de engenho, meaning the mill's owner or, by extension, the owner of a vast portion of land and slaves. The term is not used anymore to refer to contemporary mill owners.

  • It's featured in the title of a famous 1930's novel by José Lins do Rego, Menino de Engenho.

  • This is not the only meaning of engenho. It also mean ingenuity, and has the same root of other words such as engenharia (engineering).

  • What about fábrica? Is that a synonym? I know it's not the word the OP was looking for but am curious.
    – ErikE
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:42
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    Engenho is used more often than fábrica for sugar mills. For anything else, fábrica is more common.
    – bfavaretto
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:49
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    Today, sugar factory are called Usinas de Açúcar in Brasil. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:34
  • Thanks @AndréLyra, that's true. I edited the answer to point it out.
    – bfavaretto
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 20:04
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    Segundo a Wikipedia espanhola o ingenio azucarero é uma antiga fazenda com instalações para produção de açucar, que foram durante o século XX sendo substituídas por grande zentrales azucareros. A melhor correspondência não será ingenio = engenho e zentrale azucarero = usina de açucar?
    – Jacinto
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 20:44

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