This feature is designed to spark your interest in researching the world of capoeira's vocabulary, history, and philosophy.

Our Capoeira Wiki-Word series invites you to research the word of the week and post your definition(s) and translations. At the end of each week, the entries will be reviewed and then summarized into a translation and a definition of the Capoeira Wiki-Word of the week.

Submit your entries in the comments section below!

This week's Capoeira Wiki-Word is:

iaiá / ioiô





From Xerife

Interesting Facts not directly related to the words themselves -

There's also an old fort located on the square. It was used at one time to defend Salvador from the incursions of the Dutch. Nowadays, in gentler martial spirit, it's used to teach the Afro-Brazilian fight/dance called "capoeira". Santo Antônio was home to musician/composer Josué de Barros. When Josué was asked what he would like to see carved on his tombstone, he said replied "Eu descobri Carmen Miranda!" ("I discovered Carmen Miranda!").

Before Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha was to become a famous singer (she first called herself "Carmen Miranda" so her mother wouldn't find out she was singing in nightclubs), she worked in a hat shop in Rio, where she would sing to herself as she sewed. She was a lovely girl and men would flock into the store to ostensibly have work done on their hats, leaning dreamily on the counter to hear her sing in a small but very agreeable voice. Josué was one of these men, and he was also a professional composer (he'd moved to Rio from Salvador because that's where the music industry was) and so he arranged for her first recording, a song of his called "Iaiá, Ioiô" (archaic terms used by Afro-descendents in the Bahian backlands to mean "Ma'am" and "Sir"). And the rest is history.


Espantalho provided this from an email conversation with Mestre Acordeon

From Mestre Acordeon

"Bom dia Iaiá!

"Iaiá" and "Ioiô" are phonetical corruptions of the words "senhora" and "senhor", "Ms." and "Mr." In older Portuguese orthography those words were spelled with "Y" instead of "i" in the beginning of the word. Senhor and Senhora are respectful address to older people or someone who deserve those prefix according to the social structure of Brasil. In English we use generically the word "you", because of a lesser number of specific words in our Language. For example, the inuits have several words for different types of snow. It is not subservience when we call an old person, a capoeira mestre or a school teacher, Senhor or senhora. It is just the correct and polite treatment.

The transformation of the word "senhor" and "senhora" for Iaiá and Ioió possibly began with the drop of the "r" on its end, one of the most common phonetical corruptions in many Portuguese speaking countries. The same case for the change of the initial "e" for "Y" and then to "I" (modern orthographic rules). Of course the enslaved people would call their owners Ioiô and Iaiá. But not only them. Also, Iaiâ is a common nickname for a respected old lady. Dona Iaiá can be an old black lady or a white one, but generally a cherished sweet person in the community. I loved my Tia Iaiá.

If you mention the words "sinhozinho" and "sinhazinha" you are referring to sons and daughters of farm owners, administrators of sugar cane plantations, and also, slave owners. Again, in today's world, those may be nicknames of people of many color and temperament, and are not always a derogatory word."

Yayá, iaiá, ioiô, yoyô, were spelled as "wye", "a","wye" and "a" with an acute accent in the feminine format, or with an "o" with a circumflex accent (a hat) for masculine words. Iaiá, is an oxitona word finishing in "a" that requires the acute accent. Yoyô is also an oxîtona masculine word that requires a circumflex accent on the last "o".

Slaves also used "sinhá" and "sinhô" referring to their owners. "