EP word of the week (#89): telemóvel

Ubiquitous gadget of the contemporary age, cellphones/mobile phones are obviously something that people refer to a lot during their day-to-day lives. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, but we certainly can’t live without them anymore :)

In Portugal, we call them [o] telemóvel, a portmanteau of [o] telefone (telephone) and móvel* (mobile, capable of moving or being moved from place to place), which unsurprisingly yields mobile phone.

In Brazil, the preferred term is [o] celular, short for [o] telefone celular, just like cellphone is short for cellular phone. While the words are wildly different, they do make some sense inside their internal logic – and since both have cognates in English, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to pick them apart!

Três telemóveis empilhados. Three stacked cellphones
* As a noun, [o] móvel means “piece of furniture”; [os] móveis in the plural mean furniture (in general).

In Portugal, we use the borrowing [o] smartphone (pronounced similarly to English – well, as similarly as our own linguistic rhythms allow) to refer to the newest touchscreen phones; in any case, [o] telemóvel is still the word you should use when you’re making a reference to the devices in general, with [o] smartphone being used only when you want to say something specific about smartphones (or when you want to highlight that aspect of the cellphone), for example:

  • Fui comprar um telemóvel novo ontem. É um smartphone da Samsung. I went to buy a new cellphone yesterday. It’s a Samsung smartphone.
  • Comprei este smartphone na FnacI bought this smartphone at Fnac.

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