Of unknown origin. First attested in the 18th century. Several fanciful etymologies have been proposed, including:

  • According to Nei Lopes, from the Kongo verb sàkana ‎(to play a game, to have fun).
  • It may be from Yiddish סכּנה ‎(sakone, danger), from Hebrew סַכָּנָה ‎(sakaná, danger). According to this theory, prostitutes of Polish Jewish origin who lived in the suburbs of São Paulo would shout this word during police raids to alert their coworkers.
  • It may be from Japanese ‎(sakana, fish served with alcoholic beverages). According to this theory, the origin of the word goes back to the 16th century, during the Portuguese discovery of Japan. Because of the laborious task of removing scales and fish bones for the preparation of this dish, the term became a vulgar metaphor for masturbation. Thence the meaning would have been extended to a person of shameful behaviour.
  • Arabic [script needed] ‎(açaccá, water salesman).
  • Probably more than just one source had influence on the final semantic qualities of the word.


sacana m f (plural sacanas)

  1. (informal) bastard; rogue; scoundrel; trickster
  2. (informal) debauchee (somebody who is dissolute and acts without moral restraint)
  3. (vulgar, North Brazil) a passive pederast
  4. (vulgar, obsolete) a person who gives a handjob to another


sacana m, f ‎(plural sacanas, comparable)

  1. (informal) rogue; deceitful
  2. (informal) debauched

Derived termsEdit

Read in another language