"Male male" is an expression of Italian influence in Brazilian Portuguese that means something like "very bad", "barely", or "at very best". Examples:

Não falo italiano, male male, falo português. - "I don't speak Italian. I barely speak Portuguese / my Portuguese is bad enough!"

Hoje estou male male. - "I'm feeling very bad today"

Na minha conta, tenho male male R$200. - "At the very best, I have R$200 in my account / I'm lucky if there is more than R$200 in my account"

The Portuguese word for male is mal (also used in sentences like the above examples but with no repetition), which makes male close enough while sounding obviously like an Italian influence. People may even pronounce it with an actual [e] sound instead of reducing it to [i] as we normally do with unstressed final e's.

I'm wondering if "male male" is used anywhere in Italy or was only created by immigrants/descendants in Brazil.

  • 1
    Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


Mah, 'male male' come negli esempi riportati nel testo della domanda, si tradurrebbe meglio in 'a malapena' qui in Italia.

Però esiste 'male male' da noi, più che altro per dire 'molto male', 'malissimo', ecc. Per esempio: "Come stai? Male, ma male male".

Inoltre, si dice dovunque: dalla Sicilia al Friuli.

Meh, 'male male' as in the examples shown in the text of the question, it would be better translated into 'a malapena' (barely) here in Italy.

By the way 'male male' does exist, mainly to say 'molto male', 'malissimo', etc. For example: "Come stai? Male, ma male male".

Also, it's said so everywhere: From Sicily to Friuli.


It's not used in Italy. A similar expression could be 'a mala pena'.

You can find below a link from the 'Accademia della Crusca' with 3 examples:


"The Accademia della Crusca, generally abbreviated as La Crusca, is an Italian society for scholars and Italian linguists and philologists established in Florence." Wiki

  • 3
    Welcome to Italian.SE! Note that you are giving a link to a dictionary from the 18th century. Maybe you could give some examples from some more recent dictionary.
    – Charo
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:32
  • Thank you. We also have "a duras penas", which can be used in some cases, but it's not as flexible as the "Portuliano" idiom I was wondering about. :)
    – user4792
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:43

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