I was always told that Brazilians only refer to each other with their given names and nicknames (or in some instances, with full names) but never with their last name only, no matter how formal or informal the setting is. A similar phenomenon happens in Iceland, but that because they have patronymics instead of proper surnames. This is most famously seen in Brazilian footballers. Since I noticed that Portuguese ones are more likely to have their surnames printed on their shirts, I wonder if there are differences between the two countries. Do Portuguese people commonly use last names to address to each other formally? Or to talk about politicians, celebrities and so on?

  • No, Portuguese people do not use last names to address each other formally unless those names are preceded by Senhor, Senhora, or Doutor or whatever. Where did you even get this idea?
    – Lambie
    Jun 6, 2023 at 15:54
  • Senhor, ou Senhora
    – ClMend
    Jun 13, 2023 at 10:45
  • 1
    When we talk about the president on TV, we always say they're full name, which makes it more polite. "Hoje o president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fez um discurso em...". Addressing someone just by the last name is common in the military, or when you have several people with the same given name in a given place. (In Brazil) Jun 30, 2023 at 7:18

1 Answer 1


In Portugal, we just use the first name and sometimes the last name too and some Nominal forms like Sir, Miss etc..

  • In general, I agree with you. But there are a lot of situations where we prefer to use the last name, aren't there? (Aníbal) Cavaco Silva, (Álvaro) Cunhal, (Jorge) Sampaio, (José) Sócrates? All those high-profile politicians are known and called more by their family name than by their first name. (Cristiano) Ronaldo? (José) Mourinho, (Luís) Figo, (Paulo) Futre? Your answer would be more solid if you included something about this different use. :)
    – ANeves
    Jun 6, 2023 at 1:09
  • I noticed that even in Brazil, but there is no rule, they say Lula (nickname),Dilma and Aecio, for instance, but Bolsonaro (family name). I think it happens because in the latter case, his forename is too common, but his last name is not.
    – Wanderer
    Jun 8, 2023 at 6:28
  • Mind that in Brazil the top 10 surnames are used by more than 20% of the population iirc. It is the same, of course, in Portugal, but population is far smaller so they are less repetitive. In contrast, there are some foreign (Italian, German, Arab) surnames found in Brazil obviously not found in Portugal. So, I guess, if a person has a common name and a rare last name, he/she will be more likely to be referred by the last name.
    – Wanderer
    Jun 8, 2023 at 6:33

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