I would like to ask a question on the Portuguese version of the hymn Kyrie Eleison.

Most of the lyrics I could figure out their meanings, but I had no clues with the following part:

Como a pecadora caida, derramo aos teus pes minha vida

"Como a pecadora caida" means "Just like an injured sinner", right?

But what does the rest mean? I couldn't even find the word "pes" in my dictionary.

I looked it up with google and the google returned "foot"... Again, I have no idea. Or is it related to a story about cleaning feet with water in the New Testament?

1 Answer 1


The reason it doesn’t make sense is because you’ve miscopied the Portuguese. You cannot leave off diacritical markings because those are lexically significant in Portuguese — and, for that matter, in virtually all other languages that regularly use them.

English speakers aren’t used to the idea that this means it normally spells a different word if it has a different diacritic. (One exception to that principle is that Brazil and Portugal do not use the same vowel in words like the paired spellings econômico, económico respectively.)

With the corrected text, it becomes clearer to non-native speakers who aren’t used to “hearing” the rightly written words in their minds no matter how they’ve been miswritten on the page:

  • Como a pecadora caída, derramo aos teus pés minha vida.
    Vê as lágrimas do meu coração e salva-me!

So roughly something like:

  • Like the fallen sinner, I pour out my life at your feet.
    See the tears of my heart and save me.

Derramar is to spill or pour (out). Salvar is save as in souls not save as in banking or save as in computer files.

This is using the second-person singular (corresponding to the pronoun tu) verb forms that were historically customary when addressing the deity because they are intimate forms, as to a close personal friend. Those forms are still used for your friends in Portugal, but in Brazil they aren’t used by most of the country, having been supplanted by third-person forms (corresponding to the pronoun você).

I don’t know where those non-Greek lines are from. In the Latin liturgy of the Roman rite, the Kyrie has always just been the two Greek lines:

  1. Kyrie, eleïson.

    Κύριε, ἐλέησον.
    Senhor, tende piedade (de nós).
    (O) Lord, have mercy (on us).
  2. Christe, eleïson.

    Χριστέ, ἐλέησον.
    Criste, tende piedade (de nós).
    (O) Christ, have mercy (on us).

Note that grammatically the tende there is a second person plural verb form, so corresponds to the archaic pronoun vós not to tu. Normally the imperative for ter is just tem tu in the second person singular, or else tenha você in the third person singular. That tende vós form used there is a very formal form, plural in construction but here singular in sense as one might reverentially address a king or pope.

It’s an archaic form essentially unused today save in a few places in the north of Portugal, but remains familiar just as saying things like thou art thine own master still are recognizable to native speakers of English but which remains productive only in a few places in the north of England.

In case anyone is interested in how to spell and say Kyrie eleison in English, it turns out that there’s a lot of latitude in that regard. The OED says that it was once also spelled eleyson or elison historically, and that even now the eleëson spelling still exists contemporaneously. It has this etymological note on the origin of the Romanizations and pronunciations in English:

The Greek words Κύριε ἐλέησον ‘Lord, have mercy’, occurring in the Greek text of Ps. cxxii. 3, Matt. xv. 22, xvii. 15, etc. The Greek words were written in Latin kyrie (medieval Latin also kirie), and (by itacism of η) eleison. As in other Christian words (e.g. Maria, Sophia, Helena, Jacobus, etc.), the Greek accent was retained, giving eˈleīson, later eˈlēison, or eˈleison. Since the Renaissance, some have represented the Greek more literally and quantitatively by eleˈēson. Hence many varieties of pronunciation in English, some retaining the medieval Latin (which is also modern Greek) given above, some following the school pronunciation of ancient Greek or Latin, or with various English modifications of the vowels, as /ˈkɪrɪeɪ/, /ˈkaɪrɪiː/, /ˈkaɪrɪ/, /ɪˈliːɪsɒn/, /ɛlɪˈiːsɒn/, /ɛlɪˈaɪsɒn/, /ɪˈlaɪsɒn/.

I myself learned to say it as /ˈkiː.ɾi.e ͡ eˈle(j).iː.son/ when singing it in choral contexts.

  • 1
    Tangent: in the Galandum Galundaina song Coquelhada Marralheira they say it "Pater Noster, Crialeson"... :) but it's Mirandês, not Portuguese.
    – ANeves
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 13:46
  • @ANeves outro fan do GG? Eu vou a sua terra em umas semanas para tentar de aprender o mirandês. Tchrist: only thing I might change is to point out that the vós forms are in fact singular, but the number of that pronoun has varied and plural now but for some niche circumstances like some prayers Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 14:14
  • @guifa I don’t understand what you mean by saying that ”the vós forms are in fact singular”. Using 2pl verbs for a single super-formal/revered individual doesn’t make them grammatically singular, only notionally so, like using vous voyez in French for someone you don't know or using you are for just one person in present-day English. I’m ok with calling both Latin O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte and Old Spanish «Ya Campeador, en buena çinxiestes espada! ⋯ Çid, en el nuestro mal vos non ganades nada» uses of plural vos verbs but #2 is for just one person.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 14:44
  • 1
    @NJS Why of course there is. But I'm sure you're using a different system than I myself am, whether that's a palmtop cell phone computer or some shared terminal at a public library or your university's supercomputer. So you will have to find that out. I bet we have Stack Exchange sites that are oriented towards these matters. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 1:51
  • 1
    @NJS the singular is (e with acute accent), the plural pés. tchrist made a small typo with the circumflex. :) Pê (with circumflex accent) is the name of the letter p, and "pês" are several p letters. I guess this proves the point he was making, that the diacritical marks are that important...
    – ANeves
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 10:49

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