A few reasons Brazilians are so proud of their Olympic city — Rio de Janeiro.

Rio Mango Languages

Whether you simply can’t contain your excitement about the Olympics or have always dreamed of learning to dance samba while sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana beach, here are some Rio basics to help you soak up this Brazilian city’s unique spirit.

Rio de Janeiro.

Wait, what does that mean anyway? Rio de Janeiro is Portuguese for “River of January.”

Some historians believe it was named after the month of January in 1502, when Portuguese explorers first visited the area of today’s Rio de Janeiro. They named it rio because they thought they were at the mouth of a river (even though they were actually in a bay). While this theory about the explorers’ confusion is widely accepted, others believe the term rio might’ve actually been more broadly used at the time — meaning any kind of opening along a coast.

Thanks to its stunning natural beauty, Rio de Janeiro has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. About 6.5 million people live in the municipality of Rio.

Rio’s local residents are called carioca. Most believe the etymology of this word comes from kara’i oka which means “white man’s house” in the indigenous Tupi language. It referred to the Portuguese traders’ houses made of stone that looked markedly different from indigenous people’s homes in Rio.

One of Rio de Janeiro’s most well-known inventions is the famous samba dance. Its origins come from the plantations of the State of Rio de Janeiro where African slaves worked. These days, there are hundreds of samba schools in Rio.

The city’s nickname is also Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). Below are the lyrics to the city’s anthem by André Filho — a song often played during Carnival.

“Cidade Maravilhosa”

Cidade Maravilhosa,

Cheia de encantos mil

Cidade Maravilhosa,

Coração do meu Brasil

Berço do samba e das

lindas canções

Que vivem n’alma da gente,

És o altar dos nossos corações

Que cantam alegremente

Jardim florido de amor e


Terra que a todos seduz.

Que Deus te cubra de felicidade

Ninho de sonho e de luz.

“Marvelous City”

Marvelous City,

Filled with countless enchantments

Marvelous City,

The heart of my Brazil

Birthplace of the samba and of

beautiful songs

Living in our souls,

Thou art the altar in our hearts

Which joyfully sing

Flowering garden of love and


Land that seduces all.

May God fill you with happiness

Thou nest of dreams and light.

This year, Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Olympics and Special Olympics. Not only is Brazil the first South American country to host the Olympics, but also the first Portuguese-speaking country to harbor the games. If you’ve been on the edge about learning Brazilian Portuguese, now’s the time to dive in head first. Mango Languages offers four different Brazilian Portuguese courses for you to check out: Our main Mango Conversations course and three other speciality courses: Romance, Soccer Celebration, and Hospitality and Tourism.

Check if your local library subscribes to Mango Languages and start learning Brazilian Portuguese free! 

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