EP word of the week (#110): de cor

To finish this month’s overarching theme of words related to medicine in general and bodily organs in specific, I decided to bring you something different, probably what one could think is outside of the box; today’s Word of the Week is an expression associated with the body, but the true meaning of it all only opens itself up with a lesson on the history of the language, going all the way to Latin!

The expression I’m talking about is an adverb, de cor. It’s generally used with verbs implying knowledge, mainly saber and conhecer, to stress that you know or are familiar with something on a complete, intimate level, especially when you’ve committed it to memory. In English, you’d say you know something by heart, and this is where the mysteries of languages unfold themselves beautifully: what if I told you that cor was the Latin word for heart, which then evolved into the current, modern form [o] coração (both in EP and BP) for the organ and the shape? I hadn’t realized this connection up until a few years ago, but when I finally realized this it filled me with such serendipitous joy, like when you discover a secret or break apart an equation; everything fits, and it’s a gorgeous sight to behold.

Today, instead of a picture, I bring you a song whose chorus focuses in this adverb, Mafalda Veiga’s “Sei de cor cada lugar teu” (I know by heart every place of yours). Enjoy!


Another interesting thing about this specific, invariable [de] cor is that it is pronounced differently than [a] cor, the Portuguese word for “colo[u]r”; in the former, the o is open (ó, [ɔ]), while in the latter it is closed (ô, [o]). In Northern Portuguese dialects, which in general have more open vowels, the difference may be less noticeable, but in standard European Portuguese you can easily distinguish between these two colourful, beautiful homographs.

I love how [de] cor is such a fresh, open reminder of Portuguese’s status as a Romance language; it’s a piece of Latin that’s still very much alive in our language, aptily named by Brazilian poet Olavo Bilac as “[a] Última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela”, the last flower of Latium, rustic and beautiful.

What do you think about this adverb? Do you find it just as interesting as myself, or simply as yet another oddity of the language (I’m sure you know quite many by now!)

In any case, have a great week, and good luck with your studies (:

One thought on “EP word of the week (#110): de cor

  1. julkastarter July 26, 2017 / 3:20 pm

    Thank you. Just yesterday I thought that it could be nice if you placed some idioms in this section. And, voilà, today we have the post with “de cor” expression. :)
    In Russian the word that expresses this meaning also has some connection with body, but not with heart. So interesting that “by heart” and “de cor” have this connection, not so obvious at first.

    Liked by 2 people

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