Portuguese is the language used in Capoeira. It is the medium through which the knowledge is transmitted to us and the means of communication among Capoeiristas. However, there are certain terms which only belong to the culture of Capoeira or which were borrowed from other languages.
This section includes the terms used in Capoeira or around Capoeira along with their definition and description. These terms are sometimes only associated to the art or they are no longer used in everyday Portuguese.
To understand these terms, allows each Capoeirista to understand the oral tradition of Capoeira and to pass it on.
Word having its origins from the Arabic language meaning white clothing (worn during prayer times) [Cascudo 1954]. It presently refers to the pants of the Capoeirista. In older days, Capoeiristas played the game with every day clothes: clothing worn for work during work days, Sunday clothes on rest days. At the beginning of the 20th century, elegant clothing in Brazil was usually white. The Capoeiristas took pride when they played in white on Sundays, and they didn’t dirty themselves. In the 70s, the white abada was popularised. During this era, oriental martial arts dominated the martial art universe and some Capoeira groups sought recognition and decided to adapt themselves to the oriental martial art “standards” by organising competitions as well as a belt (chord) system along with wearing a white uniform while playing. Currently, the Capoeira Regional/Capoeira Contemporanea groups are essentially the ones that adopt the practice of wearing a white uniform and particularly a white Abada; Angoleiros generally prefer wearing yellow and white clothing and everyday clothes.
Name of one of the largest Capoeira Contemporanea group (acronym: Associação Brasileira de Apoio e Desenvolvimento da Arte-Capoeira) from Rio that has spread across the world and has been started by Mestre Camisa.
Academy, Capoeira school. The first one was officially open by Mestre Bimba in 1927. Before that teaching was done informally.
Afro-Bahianese dish made with black bean paste.
Biblical character. Associated with Salomé.
Square pandeiro, used in the olden days in Capoeira.
An Afro-Brazilian dance rhythm. It’s a street dance by a carnival group consisting of people affiliated to Candomblé. The biggest and best-known afoxé is the Filhos de Gandhy, located in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Although it was prohibited in the 1930s and it is still presently held in contempt by a major part of the Bourgeois population of Brazil, these African heritage shows have exercised and still exercise a very deep influence on the Brazilian culture.
The afoxé is also an Afro Brazilian musical instrument composed of a gourd (cabaça) wrapped in a net in which beads or small plastic balls are threaded. The instrument is shaken to produce its musical noise. A similar instrument is the xequerê which is larger.
A musical instrument consisting of two bells forged in iron, from Africa, used in Afro-Brazilian worship ceremonies and in Capoeira. In Capoeira, it’s a secondary instrument, which can play a large amount of toques, and whose unique sound can replicate the rhythm of any instrument (most often, the pandeiro) without getting lost in the overall ensemble.
Student of a capoeira mestre, disciple.
African country which was earlier the main port of embarkation of African slaves en route toward Brazil during colonization by the Portuguese.
Rhythm played by the berimbau, i.e. the main rhythm of Capoeira Angola.
Style of Capoeira game (namely traditional) whose main protagonist was Mestre Pastinha; he named this style as a direct reference to the country Angola as a remembrance of the art’s African roots and a part of the population of Brazil and to remind about the slavery that took place.
Someone that practices Capoeira Angola.
Alias given to a Capoeirista. In the olden days, it was given based on the person’s reputation; it is currently generally given during the batizado.
Interjection created on the basis of “(acudam) aqui d’el Rei”. It was earlier a way of asking for the help of the highest authority because the King was the only one able to provide help and army protection to anyone. Presently, aquinderreis is used in songs to ask for support (particularly from the heart). It’s a way to request for a bit more of energy in a roda.
Iron wire that we tie to both ends of the wood of the berimbau. It is often drawn from an old tyre that we cut open, although some groups presently buy it directly from a store. It was earlier made of animal guts.
Naval army, war float.
Name designating Luanda in the Bantu language.
Refers to “A Luanda ê”.
The Atabaque is an Arabic instrument (aT-Tabaq, which means “flat”), introduced in Africa by the merchants that entered the continent after crossing the Northern countries. It appears that the Atabaque was the first instrument used in Capoeira, well before the berimbau. The slaves may have made them and used them to play Capoeira, but also used them as a means to communicate between the senzalas. We could imagine that at that time, the manufacturing method would have been very different, but the form of the drum would have been similar.
The atabaque maintains the rhythm of the game. The gunga dictates the speed and the type of game played, but the atabaque maintains this rhythm in case the gunga occasionally strings a variation.
Only one atabaque is used in a Capoeira roda, and it is most often placed to the left of the gunga.
Even though the atabaque can be a very loud instrument, it cannot be louder than the sound of the berimbaus. It should support the berimbaus, and not dominate them.
Currently, it’s hardly ever possible not to find an Atabaque in a roda. The groups that do not use any atabaque use pandeiros (two of them) to replace the beats obtained from the atabaque.
It’s also an important instrument used in religious Afro-Brazilian rituals in which worships are performed to the sound of three of these drums, with a low, medium and high tone. It’s without doubt for this reason that, although Capoeira music is based on pairs of instruments that respond to each other, the Capoeira orchestras often have three berimbaus, one large and low (Rum), one average (Rum-pi) and one smaller and higher (Lê).
In Candomblé, the atabaque is considered as sacred.
The atabaque is usually made of wood such as jacaranda, cedar or mahogany clipped in large panels tied together by steel arcs of different diameters which, from bottom to top, given the atabaque its unique conical-cylindrical form. Its bottom is narrower than the top where steel brackets (these brackets can be substituted by small chords) hold out a piece of bullock leather.
A defensive and attacking movement on one’s hands. In French, “la roue” [the cartwheel in English]. In Portuguese, and particularly in Brazil, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was called virar pantana. In 1910, agreements between France and Brazil led to the introduction of French military instructors and educators to Brazil, including gymnasts, which probably explains why this French word was adopted. Moreover, it’s easier and faster to say it compared to virar pantana. Without doubt, the French word has its origins as the wheel because there is no better word for it, and the pronunciation of the word is stressed not on the second last vowel like in most Portuguese words, but on the last one, like in French. With regard to its function, it is identical to the French word.
The term axé comes from the Yoruba peoples of Western Africa. It is the name they gave to the life force; the concept is similar to the Eastern idea of qi. In capoeira today, axé has come to mean something like “energy.” If a roda has a lot of axé, it means it has good vibes, powerful energy. Some groups use the word as a greeting.
An expert, that knows everything about the game of Capoeira.
Armed expedition capturing indigenous to enslave them and searching for metal mines.
Someone who has lost his/her front teeth.
Capoeira Regional rhythm that Mestre Bimba used as a bridge to connect to Capoeira Angola.
People of the bantu culture or having as a base the bantu language. Today it expands to most of South Africa. During slavery, the culture and language has been exported to Brazil along with the slaves carrying them.
African term meaning nostalgia, missing one’s country. A synonym of “Saudade” in Portuguese.
A large tree, Melnoxylon Barauna.
Name given to a rhythm played on the atabaque in Candomblé. It’s the preferred beat of Xangô. It’s also the trance that a person goes under before being completely possessed by an Orisha.
The movement of a person when he/she loses balance, as if he/she felt a slight vertigo.
Capoeira rhythm that clearly identifies a link between Capoeira and Candomblé.
One of the rhythms played on the atabaque for maculelê.
Refers to the battle of Barro Vermelho which happened in Pardo Rio (Rio Grande do Sul), on April 30, 1838, during the Guerra dos Farrapos (War of Tatters). About 5000 men faced off in one of the greatest victories of the gauchos rebels throughout the campaign.
Direction in which the wind blows in marine navigation. The fishermen from Bahia Reconvado would use barravento as a synonym to Barlavento.
Battery of instruments.
Celebration during which the Capoeirista is recognized by the community. He/she plays his/her first official game and receives a title, an apelido, a diploma, a chord that corresponds to his/her level acquired within his/her group. The batizado is an event that generally takes place once a year, but not all are promoted, the promotion depends on the level of the student. For instance, a student that is promoted as Professor will have to wait a few years before being elevated to a higher title.
A fighting art similar to Capoeira, in which two opponents try to get each other down.
A bird (Pitangus sulphuratu).
In Capoeira, flat kick on the chest of the other person.
North-eastern city in Angola from which a large number of slaves were imported.
Province in Angola.
Contemporânea Capoeira rhythm used to play a slower game closer to Capoeira Angola. Can also be called Angola Dobrada.
Instrument having its origins in Africa, made up of a bow and a metallic wire called arame strung across the length of the wood, and a calabash. We use a wooden stick to hit the arame into a rhythm and a caxixi to complete the sound. A metallic coin (dobrão) or a stone is used to create tone variations. In the olden days, in southern Brazil, a musical bow was used to accompany chanting; it was called a urucongo. Like in Portugal, Berimbau, at that time, referred to jew harp. These days, the berimbau only refers to the instrument used in Capoeira, the musical bow has now become a symbol of the dance fight; it’s also one of the emblems of Bahia. The rhythms produced by the berimbaus, known as toques, help determine the game that should be played in the roda. Depending on the rhythm, the capoeiristas will either play a slow and cunning game, a quick and aggressive game, or a game that is open and harmonious. There are many berimbau toques and some of them are common to all the institutions whereas others are used only in few groups. In a Capoeira roda, the berimbau has the loudest “voice”! The other instruments support it or conduct the rhythm, but the can never submerge the sound of the berimbau. In the bateria of Capoeira Angola and Comtemporanea, three berimbaus are used: The Gunga (or Bera Boi): It has the deepest sound, plays the role of the bass; it maintains the rhythm and plays the basic melody. Medió: supports the gunga by keeping the rhythm or by playing the reverse of the Gunga toque. The key of the berimbau is between the Gunga and the Viola. Viola: it’s the berimbau with the highest pitch sound; it’s in charge of improvising. The viola berimbau is usually qualified as the hardest to play.
Synonym of gunga.
Manoel Henrique Pereira (Besouro) is a legend of Capoeira and known to have been the best.
Name of the tree from which the berimbaus are mostly made.
A Brazilian folk theatrical tradition. The tale is told through the music, the costumes and drumming involving a bull, which dies and is brought back to life. Versions of the tale vary regionally, but the most important central characters include the Bull (a player in an elaborate costume), Catirina (an ugly pregnant girl, usually played by a man in drag), a cowboy who is in charge of the Bull and who causes the Bull to die, the priest, the rich and powerful owner of the Bull, and the music (which magically drums the Bull back to life).
Opened, dried and hollowed out gourd-like fruit secured to the lower portion of the berimbau, used to amplify and resonate the sound.
In Portuguese, it’s possible to audaciously create a name of a blow by using the object that is used to enforce the blow followed by the suffix -ada. And so, cabeça, which means head, gives cabeçada, i.e. a head butt; perna, which means leg becomes pernada, i.e. a leg kick, and with these two, it’s possible to play a game that is similar to the old game of batuque, in which one remains “frozen” to the ground and tries his best to remain standing, while the other tries to make him lose balance. Similarly, joelho, which means knee, becomes joelhada, cotovelo which means elbow becomes cotovelada. However, the blows made with the fists have very specific names, i.e. murro and soco. It’s also worth mentioning that the kick called queixada in Capoeira originates without doubt from the word queixo, which means chin, and no one so far has been able to convince me as to the how and the why. Finally the word porrada, which means a punch or a blow by using a stick, evidently follows the same syntax, but it is a little strange because it is based on the word porra, which means mace, and its diminutive word, which is porrete and means cudgel, is only used in this context. Since a long time, the word porra, analogically referred to the penis, and figuratively to the male semen, or in complete slang, ejaculation. These word associations make of porrada a very vulgar brutal word. The head butt cabeçada carries with it all the ambiguities of Capoeira. It’s one of the blows that can be most dangerous and even lethal, and at the same time, it’s one of the symbols of a subtle game.
Refers to a Capoeirista that is an expert in cabeçadas (head butts), and hence it means dangerous or in general, someone who knows who to use his head/brains 😉
Caboclo / Cabôco
Comes from the Tupi “CAA-boc”. Born from an indigenous father and African mother.
Cais do Porto
“Quay of the port”. A place where was capoeira was played, especially in Bahia.
Fresh water fish.
That walks across bushes.
Camugerê / Camujerê
Name of a Quilombo where a battle seem to have taken place.
A kind of greeting: “How are you?”
Canavial / Canavia
Generic name of Afro-Brazilian religions based on that of the “Yoruba” (Candomblé Nagô) and other peoples of West Africa or Central (Candomblé of Angola). The “Orixas” are the deities.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cangaceiro was the name given to bandits operating in the Sertão (Northeast Brazil). They were wearing leather clothing and hats, carrying carbines, revolvers, shotguns, and long narrow knives known as peixeiras. The most famous and dangerous cangaceiro was Lampião.
Dog but can refer to demon as well.
In Portugal, this word means a cage or a chicken basket and by analogy, there are many derivatives. In Brazil for instance, it refers to a large basket used to transport poultry.
In the Tupian language (Tupi Guarani, indigenous people from Brazil), which was the main language before the 1600s, “Caa-apuam-era” or “caa-puera” referred to (at least since the beginning of the 18th century) a “cut forest” or a “forest that grows back from an abandoned culture”, and from this we get the connection to quilombo (a runaway slave who was “in Capoeira”).
It’s also the name of a type of partridge, the Uru, a bird that can simulate a fight against another male to win over the female.
We now call people who play Capoeira “capoeiristas” in Portuguese. But in earlier days, the term Capoeira referred to the training and the trainee.
Capitão do Mato
An individual dedicated to capturing slaves on the run.
Name given to a small lizard from North West Brazil, that has a long tongue.
Inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro.
During slavery, designated the home of sugarcane Planter.
A child that plays Capoeira.
A type of squirrel.
A small musical instrument that complements the berimbau. It’s a small closed wicker basket with the bottom made of calabash and containing grains (or small stones) inside, that held on the right hand with the bagueta. The folk people write that in the olden days they were called mucaxixi (this is similar to a Bantu prefix in front of onomatopoeia). It’s almost always held in the hand of the berimbau players; we can hear an independent caxixi being played and the berimbau without caxixi in old Capoeira disks. When the musician is alone, and there is no one to respond to the call of the berimbau, the caxixi replaces a musical void, as a response to the berimbau. If there is a pandeiro or a second berimbau, the caxixi becomes superfluous and it can be used to show that the other instruments are not responding to the berimbau or that they are not completing enough the sound of the bateria.
A “Call” in the game of Capoeira de angola. It is the situation when the Capoeira Angola game changes. One of the players stands in a ritualistic stance, calling the other player to come to him and engage into a ritual-like dance. The Chamada is one of the least understood and least explained parts of a Capoeira Angola game. Yet, a Capoeira Angola Roda without a Chamada would miss a lot of its fascination.
The chamada can also be a call from the Gunga.
A short whip with a single strand. Corporal punishments were enforced in the Brazilian marine in 1910, and the torture inflicted on a marine with a chibata that had small nails led to a revolt called the Revolta da Chibata. The mutineers were armed with marine canons obtained from the most powerful units of the float; there is no reference to Capoeira in this revolt.
In Capoeira, it refers to different kicks, depending on the groups, regions and academies. In certain cases, it’s a kick given with the outside of the body and the side of the foot towards the face.
The Portuguese word chulo kind of means “impolite”. A chula is a folk song, made up of rude or indecent lyrics. In general, there is no rude content in the samba de viola, in which the chula is sung with two voices; we dance, one at a time, only after the chant is over. In Capoeira, chula should logically refer to the chanting done before the game; but since samba de viola has almost disappeared, the capoeiristas use chula as a synonym for louvaçoes. This is evidently because the louvaçoes precede the start of the game.
“Snake”. The most dangerous ones are called cascavel (rattlesnake), cobra verde and cobra coral (green snake and coral snake). The capoeirista is often compared to a snake. Note that cabra (i.e. goat, but in masculine) refers to a “type”, particularly a mixed-race, in North East Brazil; only a vowel and the gender should be changed to make it cobra. Also check São Bento, Mandinga.
Coconut-based sweet typical of Salvador da Bahia.
Also known as Calabaça it is a round fruit with a hard shell that once dry, can be used to replace the cabaças. It grows in a tree.
Comprar o jogo
Buy the game, replacing one of the two capoeira players.
Someone on his way to become a Mestre.
Cordão / Corda
Chord made of cotton used by Capoeiristas as a belt and that is used in many groups to identify one’s level. The color code depends on each group.
Corpo Fechado does also have a very religious connotation. In Afrobrazilian practises achieving Corpo Fechado is possible through specific rituals and by wearing amulets. Having a Corpo Fechado means being invulnerable against all kinds of physical attacks. If it’s knives or bullets. The most favourite person to have had a Corpo Fechado was the Capoeira legend Besouro Manganga.
In samba corridor, the main singer sings one or two verses, and the choir responds with a short chant as well, which accompanies the dance.
In Capoeira, it’s the same. They are small sentences that animate the quickest moments in the Capoeira rodas, sung by soloists and repeated by the choir.
She was the wife of Zumbi and a strong and valiant warrior.
Dendê refers to the fruit from the coconut tree used to manufacture palm oil (azeite de dendê). The oil from dendê is a spicy seasoning in Bahianese culinary. It therefore refers to anything that is “tasty” or “spicy”.
A capoeira game with “dendê” is a game which is tricky, spicy, interesting. A mestre that possesses “dendê” is a master that is able to play such a game. Singing about dendê can also mean that a more spicy game is required or it can be sung when the ongoing game is already interesting!
Dia da Consciencia Negra
A day of commemoration that makes a reference to the resistance organized by Zumbi who was leading the Quilombo dos Palmares (a quilombo is a slave community on the run). It is celebrated on 20th November. This reference remains pertinent and reminds us, today, of the necessity to abolish racism, oppressions and injustices. Capoeira is an educational and cultural resistance related instrument against discriminations.
Brazil’s Imperial Princess Isabel was the last technical ruler of the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889). Although her rule was brief and generally ineffective, she is responsible for one of the most important events in Brazil’s history: the abolition of slavery on 13th May 1888. This date is not celebrated by the capoeiristas because it didn’t lead to the abolishment of discrimination against black people. Instead, 20th November is commemorated as Dia da Consciencia Negra (black awareness day).
Troublemaker, person disturbing public order, associated with capoeira in the early twentieth century.
Ancient coin of 40 “reals” used to change the tone of the Berimbau. Today it is mostly replaced by a stone, a gallet or a manufactured metal gallet.
Designates the mill or the machines in the Fazenda.
Salvador neighborhood which has a high concentration of “Candomblé”.
Ancestors spirit in the religion “Yoruba”, the Cuban “Santeriaan, the Brazilian “Candomblé Nagô”.
In the academy of Mestre Bimba, the students had the habit of fighting each other at the end of the class, before taking a shower. These games without music were more violent and quick than the games during training.
This term is not specific to Capoeira. Doing an esquiva is neither running away, nor blocking, it’s allowing for the attacking move to pass by you without going away and opening the possibilities of a counter attack. In Capoeira, like in any other fighting art, the esquiva is fundamental. We can also view the ginga as a succession of esquivas and fake negaças.
Faca de Ticum
Knife made of ticum wood. Also known as the only weapon that can successfully be used to beat a person which body has been made invulnerable against all kinds of physical attacks by rituals (corpo fechado).
Machete used in the sugar cane fields, appears in some songs.
A toasted cassava flour mixture. It is served alongside the main course and can either be sprinkled on by individual diners to their taste before eating, or eaten as an accompaniment in its own right, as rice is often consumed.
During slavery, large agricultural property where worked the slaves.
In some academies term for students formed.
A movement that enhances the game, due to its fluidity and embellished esthetics.
Ceremony during which a new Professor or Mestre is sanctified.
Pernambuco rhythm created in the early twentieth century, according to E. Carneiro, the dance that accompanies it was inspired by the movements of capoeira.
In Capoeira, like in philosophy, it refers to prevailing concepts that we should build on. Masons build houses, philosophers build systems, and capoeiristas build the game; it is then more complex to perceive the depths of these concepts in the larger context of things. In Capoeira, the knowledge of fundamentos, whatever they may be, is obtained from experience, particularly acquired from defeats and undue risks taken (what does not kill you makes you stronger), to the exclusion of all other methods of learning. Wisdom is acquired in the same way, but wisdom is a more general virtue whereas the knowledge of Capoeira fundamentos is applicable only to Capoeira. There are Mestres that have particularly good knowledge and perceptions of the Capoeira fundamentos, but in other aspects of their life, there is a particular lack of wisdom on their part.
Grasshopper, insect with long legs that can devastate plantations.
Big tree used to build small boats, pots and dishes.
A city in Pernambuco which names comes from the tree.
According to T.Sampaio comes from “Yereba”, name given to the vulture-king, large.
Basic movement of Capoeira. In a wider context, it is a way to move by balancing the body with a kind of swing. The main definition of ginga is a “steering oar”; i.e. an oar that the sailors row at the rear of the boat to make it move forward. The literal translation of the verb “gingar” in Portuguese is “to sway” and it is used in contexts other than Capoeira too. Ginga in Capoeira is the most basic balancing movement used to move, escape or attack.
Refers to individuals that are associated to a level in Capoeira.
Specific level in some groups.
Berimbau with the deepest sound in the bateria, often with the largest cabaça. This berimbau controls the roda and it is played by the person that initiates the roda or that maintains it. The gunga should decide and maintain the rhythm, it is the reference for other instruments. Even though variations can be played on it, there will not be as many variations as in the viola (whose role is to improvise and add variety). Some use the gunga as a substitute for the word berimbau.
A synonym of the Gunga is also berra-boi.
Iaiá / Ioiô
A nickname for sinhá (senhora) and sinhô (senhor)
Terms used by the slaves for the daughters and sons of the plantation in which the slaves were working.
Interjection which demands silence, attention or a stoppage. It is used to stop a game or for a change of players and to start or end a roda.
Name of the divinity of the sea in the “Yoruba Candomblé”, “Yemaya” in the “Santeria” Cuban. According P.Verger, Iemanjá is syncretised (associated) with “Nossa Senhora da Conceição” in Brazil and the “Virgen de Regla “in Cuba.
Traditional percussion rhythm from Candomblé.
Ilha de Maré
Island located in the bay of Salvador de Bahia.
Derived from “embora”, go (“em boa hora” at the right time).
The ingoma is an african drum covered with a membrane of animal skin. The top of the drum is always broader than the bottom. The name comes from the tree is is traditionally made of: umuvugangoma.
Level in certain Capoeira groups: on his/her way to be Professor.
Island located in the bay of Salvador de Bahia.
The term iúna originates from the abbreviated name of the bird “inhuma” or “anhuma”, from the family of Anhimidaes. These birds are from South America. Its mystic aura has become a symbol of Capoeira. This bird is said to be a mandingueiro. The term iúna may have originated from the Tupi language referring to water (i) and the color black (una); the kamichi or anhuma belongs to the same family as geese and ducks. It is similar to a guinea fowl -konken in Yoruba- which is very important in Candomblé initiation rites in Bahia. In the first part of the recitals, the orator portrays the characteristics of different types of kamichis, particularly similar to the kamichi with corns known as iúna and as the unicorn of the Amazon, whose main feature is a corn at the top of the head. We find this bird in all regions of the Amazon in Brazil and in the north-eastern regions too. They are common in swamps, in ponds and other inundated territories; however, the kamichi with a corn can be distinguished by its deep, strong and melodious chants. The kamichi is apparently also able to emit ventriloquistic sounds or able to scare away animals by imitating the hissing of a snake. American-Indian myths assign mysterious powers to the kamichi. It is difficult to capture, it is considered as a sentinel in the forest and its corn, according to beliefs, has the ability to protect and heal snake bites.
Old guitar rhythm (viola) used in samba Recôncavo.
Name of a berimbau rhythm, solemn, only played by Mestres and graduated Capoeiristas (graduados), because it demands skill and technique. This may not be true, but the rhythm may have been created by Mestre Bimba (or adapted from the rhythm of samba Recôncavo, of which, he was an accomplished player) who used it as a means to show the abilities of graduated students. Today, it’s a type of game that is traditionally played without any chanting or clapping to comply with the solemn feeling of the moment. In the Capoeira of Mestre Bimba, it is common to use “cintura-desprezada” or “balões cinturados” during this type of game. The rhythm imitates the chanting of the bird, Iuna, by alternating between the male and the female. This reference to the bird is a way of reminding the importance of including other elements in Capoeira instead of just simple movements.
A traditional fishing boat made of wood used in the northern region of Brazil.
Portuguese name of a warrior tribe of the Congo-Angola region.
Exchange between Capoeiristas having a matching physical conversation. In other words, the Capoeira game between two Capoeiristas.
Virgulino Ferreira da Silva (1898-1938), famous outlaw from the early 20th century.
The chant or recital of litanies on the dates fixed by the Catholic Church is a time of get together in the evening in Brazil. The litanies of saints are long and monotonous.
Chant that starts the roda of Capoeira, before the beginning of the first game and which ends with the louvaçoes (Ié Viva meu mestre…). When the soloist chants a Ladainha during a roda, the Capoeiristas cannot play and should wait at the foot of the berimbau. The ladainhas often talk about the experience of the person that is singing, of his past. It’s a type of introduction of the person and hence, of the roda/game that will be played as well, but it can also make reference to an important person in the history of Capoeira. When sung at the beginning of a roda in Capoeira Angola, only the berimbaus and pandeiros can be played, the other instruments start at the beginning of the louvaçoes. The ladinha is a solemn chant and every Capoeirista should pay attention to it (like in the case of all other chants) and respect it.
An area in Salvador de Bahia.
Lenço de Seda
Silk ribbon that ancient capoeiristas tied around their neck to avoid the cutting edge of the Navalha.
A dance that simulates a fight, in which the dancers hit with two sticks (or machetes) as per a four beat rhythm, each dancer has a pair of sticks, one on each hand. The players hit the sticks after every four beats. The staging of Maculelê is similar to Capoeira: two dancers are in the middle of the roda. The ones that are standing in the circle also hit the sticks after every four beats and can “buy” the game when they want. The music is played only on one or three atabaque. Maculélé is a dance that celebrates the fight led by a young African boy to defend the village that had accepted him.
In “Candomblé de Angola” in Salvador de Bahia, “Makota” is a person initiated since several years.
More than merely being cunning, faking or cheating, malandragem is a way of being, a charm, a quality that is acquired from street experience and from the nature of humans. A Malandragem is the combination of malicia and mandingua.
This word is often used to refer to a thug, “a bad boy” but in Capoeira, it refers to someone that is “street smart”, who is therefore someone that thinks fast and find appropriate solutions to problems while avoiding them.
Ability to understand the intentions of another and to mislead him by being cunning or faking.
Nation d’esclaves musulmans, disparue après une rébellion sanglante à Salvador.
Originally refers to fate, sorcery and, in Latin American countries, the term means the devil.
In Capoeira, it’s the ability (or actually a way of being) of being charming, in order to bewitch the other into doing what you want.
In West Africa, Mandinka / Manding are an ethnic group and a dialect.
In Brazil, the mandingueiros were described at the beginning of the 19th century as snake charmers, healers or poisoners having a certain influence on black people.
Capoeiristas or other malandros that know how to use mandinga in the game of Capoeira like in real life. By analogy, a skilled and cunning player that is able to have his way without the other understanding how.
Cunning, cleverness. We call manhoso someone who knows how to fake. It’s a synonym of mandiga or malandragem, although the connotation is a little different.
Village in the state of Bahia. Famous in Capoeira because it was the birthplace of Besouro.
In Brazil, a lawyer is a Doutor. A school teacher is a professor. These names are regulated by law. When a person is known, like a master of a ship or in any trade, one earns respect by obtaining the name mestre. The origin of the use in Capoeira is uncertain. The folklorist Renato Almeida (1941) explains that the mestres that are depicted in old song lyrics are Capoeiristas “that have already retired [from the game] and that train the group”. However, during the same time (1936), mestre Bimba, was already given the title by the press, and he played in the roda and confronted other Capoeiristas in the ring. One has to respect its professors and mestres: they know something that we don’t, and that apparently, we want to learn 😉
This word originates from the name Quilombo Milonga.
Refers to the mysterious, secret that not everybody knows.
Community of runaway slaves.
“Kid”, youngster. It originally referred to child. It is currently assimilated to street kids, a small delinquent. In the larger sense, it can also refer to an adult that behaves like a kid. In the older days, it was mainly the slaves, the blacks that were called Moleque. The term can now be associated with anyone that has an incorrect behavior (whatever may be the age of the person, the color or the social class).
A morena refers to a brunette or a dark skinned woman.
N'Golo / Zebra Dance
Initiation dance from South Mucope, Angola. It is one of the ancestors of Capoeira.
African nation turned into slavery.
Foldable razor used in Capoeira at the beginning of the century.
Trickery, provocation. Doing something on purpose (movement, attack) and then change it to surprise the opponent. Originates from the verb negaçear which can be translated as “deny” (in Portuguese “negar”).
Deformation of “negro”: black, depending on the tone and context may be an offense.
Used by certain Bantu tribes it is a type a percussion.
Honorary title in the “Candomblé”.
Orixa, God of war.
African gods that take over the bodies of loyal followers during Candomblé ceremonies.
Symbol of peace and purity, refers to the “father” of Orixás.
Wooden circular instrument, made with goat skin (or snake skin) with small cymbals. We hold it on one hand and play it with the other. It supports the rhythm played by the berimbau.
A kind of challenge in which the Capoeirista provokes his opponent by slowly walking around the roda, as though there is no fight. If either of the players notices a defect in the guard of the other, he/she can take advantage.
Passa a Dois
A step done two by two. Done in an Angola Capoeira roda after a chamada.
Amulet containing a small bag or a piece of leather that includes a prayer and that is worn around the neck with a thread. It protects the person wearing it.
Pé do Berimbau
Position in front of the berimbau in the roda.
Public place where the slaves were whipped.
Salvador de Bahia, old district. Popular tourist today.
A pear tree (pêra = pear), but the Pau pereira also refers to a tree in the Amazon in which the bark was used by Indigenous people for its medicinal properties.
Originally a knife from Pernambuco that was used to cut fish, the tip of the blade is very sharp.
Refers to a dove and a pigeon.
The soloist singer in the Capoeira roda.
Puxada de Rede
Theatrical piece taught to Capoeiristas simulating fishing. Generally performed during events/shows.
In North-East Brazil, a lot of people love that popular poets recite stories drawn from folkloric tales, novels and newspapers in the form poetic verses; repentistas compete against each other in public places. These verses are published, often in seven syllables, in small books suspended in the air and attached by chords on display to the buyers; they are called literatura de cordel because they are suspended. Verses are grouped in four (quadras), with A.B.C.B rhymes, or in six (sextilhas) with A.B.C.B.D.B rhymes, and sometimes in seven (septilhas) with A.B.C.B.D.D.B rhymes. Many proverbs have are formulated in the same way.
In Capoeira, singers use these verses because they are easy to remember, or they use them in blocks in ladainhas or in chulas, or they are sung verse by verse in corridos.
In Bantu Africa, an initiation group of young warriors. In Brazil, at the time of slavery, they were villages and communities created by escaped slaves in remote regions inland. According to some opinions, Capoeira originated while training these warriors that defended these communities against Capitães do Mato (Forest captains) and escaped slave hunters.
Quilombo dos Palmares
The most renowned quilombo; a confederation first governed by the king Ganga Zumba, then by his nephew Zumbi, in which a resistance was upheld for more than sixty years inside Alagoas in the XVII century, before being destroyed at the end of a veritable war following a canon attack in 1695. It had more than 100 000 people.
Inhabitant of a quilombo.
Rabo de Arraia
Tail of a ray fish. This fish attacks with its tail, which is sometimes poisonous. The cartilage in the tail of the ray, such as the bone, was used in the olden days, to make knives; the wounds inflicted with those knives would not cicatrize, and closed body protection (corpo fechado) would not work.
Kick in Capoeira which in some Angola groups is a synonym of Meia Lua de Compasso. In other groups Rabo de Arraia is Meia Lua de Compasso done without the use of the hands. Primitively in Capoeira, rabo-de-arraia was kicked with a bent leg.
Interior of the Bahian state.
A wheel, a circle.
Edison Carneiro compares a Capoeira roda to the samba played in popular celebrations in his Negros Bantus of 1937. In old traditional folk or street sambas, the support group sings and claps their hands while standing up in a circle around one, two or three dancers. Capoeira was played in the same way. Nobody sat on the floor. When the roda lasted for a long time and was played at a good spot, like for instance, next to a small store where a little of everything is sold, and particularly cachaça (tafia, alcohol) was sold, people would sit on stools or benches, but still be careful about any possible danger. At this time, we would call it “Capoeira from so-and-so” instead of “the Capoeira roda”. Once institutions developed, it became more important to distinguish the game from the training, and the term roda became significant.
In Brazil, the term roda also refers to what we call circles, for instance, roda literária, i.e. a literary circle.
Saci Pererê is a personage from a Brazilian folklore. Legend says that he had lost a leg while playing Capoeira. He wears a red hat, smokes a pipe and plays tricks on people that visit the forest. If we go back to the origins of Capoeira in Africa, we can see a relation between Saci Pererê and the genie in Arabic fables. Since some slaves were Muslims, it may have something to do with the origins of Saci.
Salvador da Bahia
Capital of the state of Bahia in Brazil, the city where the influence of African culture is still the strongest, cradle of Capoeira.
Samba de Roda
Samba danced in a circle (like in Capoeira) by a couple to the sound of percussions being played. People “buy” the dance, in such a way that there is always a man and a woman in the center. These days, it often happens after the Capoeira rodas.
A city in Recôncavo Baiano (in the edge of the Bay of Bahia), which is renowned for its Capoeirista Besouro de Maganga and because it is the birth place of two famous musicians: Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethânia.
Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order. Represented as a person with Black features wearing the robe of a monk. Recommended against snake bites. He is a protector and is depicted in many songs. São Bento pequeno, São Bento Grande are names of rhythms played in the Berimbau.
Long grass used to cover, like the thatched roof houses.
This is a relatively new term in Capoeira. It is often used to lower the value of a game or of a Capoeirista. Some groups are easily treat others as Saroba. The term originated from weight rooms where saroba was used as an antonym to “sarado”. Sarado is used to identify a person that has a well-defined, muscular body. Saroba therefore identifies a person that lifts weights but does not have a “well-defined” body like others. The person may be a beginner or simply, someone who does not have an adequate body. In Capoeira, saroba refers to someone or a group that does not really have a well-defined style or at least, it does not look like they do. Like in the case of weight training, identifying someone as saroba means that the person does not fulfill the criteria that society (limited to a group of individuals or everyone) deems as the best. Some mestres think that saroba is one of the most complex elements to develop in Capoeira. In fact, one has to detach from the techniques learnt, the rules and styles to be able to go beyond. Is it not a form of mental slavery to be tied to the values imposed by a society?
Abbreviation of senhor.
Name given to the slave house during the exploitation by Portuguese masters in the colonial era.
Name of an important Capoeira group, founded in Rio at the beginning of the 60s and presently recognized across the world.
Mermaid. Can be associated to the orixa “Iemanjà”.
Arid interior characteristic of the area of the Brazilian “Nordeste”.
Abbreviation of senhora.
Short for está.
Location, place of worship, Terreiro de Candomblé. In general, it refers to a location, place.
Hard black wood that is supposedly one of the vulnerabilities of persons having a “corpo fechado”.
Originates from the Portuguese verb tocar, i.e. to play (only with reference to an instrument).
Rhythm played by an instrument, such as the berimbau, the atabaque…
African nation originated in present-day Nigeria, taken during slavery in Brazil.
Name of a football club, favorite of the popular classes of Salvador and Mestre Pastinha, who adopted the yellow and black colors for the uniforms of his disciples.
Zum Zum Zum
Refers to the humming noise made by the cockchafer when it flies.
Black leader, that has become the symbol of Freedom of slaves. For a very long time, he was managing the quilombo dos Palmares. He is the nephew of the king Ganga Zumba, and was the head of the quilombo dos Palmares, during the end of his life. He had his mocambo (people) in 16 areas of Porto Calvo (Alagoas). After having many defeats, Domingo Jorge Velho, in 1694, succeeded in invading the stronghold of Palmares. Zumbi was able to escape and remained the leader of the resistance. In 1695, he was betrayed and discovered from his hiding place, and he was killed.