This glossary contains a list of words and phrases commonly used in the world of Capoeira and therefore need no translation within the songs. Here we provide a list of the words and what they mean and how they relate to Capoeira.
Angola: This is a country in central Africa but it is also the name given to a traditional style of capoeira. It is generally played lower to the ground and slower than Regional incorporating many ground movements. Angola is largely seen as the predecessor to Capoeira Regional.
Angoleiro: This is the name given to a person who practices the Angola style of Capoeira. Capoeira has two main styles, Angola and Regional.
Arame: This is wire used as the string for the berimbau instrument. This wire is often salvaged from an old tire.
Aruanda: This an adulteration of Luanda, the capital city of Angola.
Axé: This means life force, aura or energy much like the Chinese chi (qi). It is also used to mean show agreement often in prayers similar to the word “amen”. The word is Yoruba in origin.
Babá: This is the Yoruba term for Father and is also used to show respect.
Bahia: Bahia is a state in the northeast of Brazil. It is widely recognized as the birthplace of Capoeira.
Batizado: This literally means baptism. But in the capoeira world, it is the name given to a ceremonial event where capoeiristas can receive a new cord as a sign of the growth in capoeira. Each capoeira group hosts their own event and it is often held annually.
Batuque: Batuque was a Brazilian game played in Bahia in the early part of the twentieth century by African slaves which were brought to Brazil but now extinct. A similar game, pernada, was popular in Rio de Janeiro about the same time. Players stand in a circle; one player stands in the center in a defensive position, and another moves around him, suddenly attacking. The attacking player tries to throw the defending player to the ground with blows from his legs. Mestre Bimba’s father was a champion of batuque, and research seems to indicate that Mestre Bimba incorporated some techniques into his Capoeira regional courses.
Benguela: A style of Capoeira game that’s a fusion of Regional and Angola. It is played slower than Regional but faster than Angola and involves a lot of ground movements.
Beriba: This is the name of the wood typically used to make the berimbau instrument.
Besouro Mangangá : Besouro was a legendary capoeirista and outlaw from Bahia. See this link for more info.
Beriba: This is the name of the wood typically used to make the berimbau instrument.
Bom Jesus da Lapa: This is the name of a municipality in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It is home to the third largest catholic festival in Brazil known as Romaria de Bom Jesus and so is also known as Capital Baiana da Fé (the Bahian Capital of Faith).
Cabaça: This is the guord part of the berimbau that is used as the resonator.
Caboclo/Cabocla: This is a half-white, half-brazilian native person.
Candomblé: This is an Afro-Brazilian religion and is a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu beliefs which originated from different regions in Africa. It has also incorporated some aspects of the Catholicism over time. It officially originated in Salvador, Bahia at the beginning of the 19th century when the first Candomblé temple was founded, but it traces back to the earliest days of the slave trade, when enslaved Africans brought their beliefs with them when they were shipped to Brazil.
Capineiro: This is a kind of machete or cutlass.
Corpo de Deus: This is a religious holiday in Brazil equivalent to Corpus Christi. It usually occurs 60 days after Easter Sunday.
Cutia: This is a large rodent found in the forests of Brazil.
Dendê: This is a name of a palm tree and kernel by the same name brought to Brazil by Africans. It is found mostly in the Northeast of Brazil and especially Bahia. Dendê is very rich in nutrients and is used to make dendê oil used in may traditional dishes. In Brazil, followers of Candomblé believe it’s of particular importance to Orunmila (also know as Ifá) the orisha of divination and foresight. Furthermore, in capoeira when we say something has dendê we mean it has those same strong, powerful, rich, and mystical qualities of dendê.
Ginga: This is the basic capoeira stance movement which may look very much like a dance. It is accomplished by maintaining both feet approximately shoulder-width apart and then moving one foot backwards and then back to the base, describing a triangular ‘step’ on the ground.
Iaiá: This was a named once used to refer to the slave master’s daughter. It is also used just as a sound in songs.
Ilha de Maré: This is an island located in the bay of Todos-os-Santos and belongs to the municipality of Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil. This place is very important to capoeira as it’s one of the first areas where Capoeira was discovered.
Ioió: This was a named once used to refer to the slave master’s son. It is also used just as a sound in songs.
Iúna: This is a capoeira rhythm played on the berimbau and credited to Mestre Bimba. It is not often played in rodas today. You might hear it in a batizado for Mestres and students with higher belts to display their acrobatic abilities.
Macumba: This is an Afro-Brazilian religion practiced in across Brazil but particularly in areas with large Afro-Brazilian populations like Bahia. It is seen as a largely secretive practice and is shrouded in mystery. In Brazil to non-practitioners, the word macumba is often used pejoratively by some to refer to various forms of “black magic”.
Mandinga: This refers to a natural kind of magic or sorcery. The word embodies an understanding of natural forces and how to work with them to achieve ones goal.
Mandingueiro/Mandingueira: This is a person or thing that knows how to use mandinga or exhibits it’s characteristics.
Meia-lua: This literally means “half-moon”. It’s one of the basic round kicks in capoeira usually done with either one or both hands on the ground.
Morena: This is a Brazilian term that refers to either a dark-haired or tan-skinned female.
Nagô: The name given to the slaves of Yoruba origin brought to Brazil. The Yorubas are an ethnic group found in West Africa.
Nega/Nego/Negro: “Nego” is a corrupted form of “Negro”, referring to a black male. “Nega” is the female version. Although technically a racial slur, it is usually not considered offensive in Brazilian society when used among close friends or acquaintances (although less common in the south of Brazil). It can be seen as the english equivalent of “buddy” or “dude”. “Nega” in particular is often used affectionately.
Ogum: Also written as Ogun. This is the Yoruba deity or orixá of iron and war. He is also often the patron deity for warriors.
Olorum: Also written as Olorun. This is one of the names given to the supreme being or God in Yoruba belief and in Candomblé.
Orixá: This is pronounced “Orisha” and is the word used for the deities in the Yoruba belief system. The deities represent the manifestations of Olodumare which is the Yoruba supreme being. This is linked to capoeira via Candomblé which is a version of the Yoruba religion found in Brazil. An example of an orixá is Ogum (Ogun) the god of iron and war.
Oxalá: Also known as Obàtálá in Yoruba, one of the chief deities in Yoruba belief. He/She is seen as the creator and a manifestation of Olorun the supreme being. In Brazil and more specifically the practice of Candomblé in Bahia, Oxalá has been syncretized with Our Lord of Bonfim.
Quilombo [kiˈlõbu]: These were settlements founded in the hinterland of Brazil during the time of slavery. They were founded by runaway slaves and developed into fully functional communities. A person from a Quilombo is called a Quilombola.
Quilombola [kiˈlõbula]: This is a term that refers to a person from a Quilombo.
Rasteira: This a general name given to a style of takedown used in Capoeira. The takedown usually involves a sweeping motion with the feet.
Regional: This a fast and athletic form of Capoeira developed by Mestre Bimba. It is played more upright than other forms of Capoeira and the kicks are much faster often involving acrobatics.
Roda: This is the circle in which Capoeira is played. It is formed by all the players singing and playing instruments.
Salvador/São Salvador: This is the capital city of the state of Bahia in the northeast of Brazil. It is widely recognized as the birthplace of Capoeira.
Sabia: This is a type of song-bird found in Brazil.
Viola: This is a berimbau with a small guord(cabaça) which helps give it a higher pitched sound.
Vatapá: A Brazilian dish common in the northeast. It is made with bread, shrimp, coconut milk, ground peanuts and palm oil.
Xangô: Also spelt Shango. He is the orixá or deity of thunder, lightening, and fire in the Yoruba belief system.
Zumbi: He was a legendary leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares. Some believe he and his men defended the quilombos using capoeira skills. In the capoeira world he is seen as a hero and represents bravery, strength, freedom and courage. He has also become a symbol for the Afro-Brazilian political movement in Brazil.