I am translating a book from Portuguese into English, as an experiment. It used to be popular on the now extinct Orkut social network and is still somewhat discussed in some blogs around the internet.

It was published under the pseudonym, no much is known about the author.

I've been trying get a single word, and if there's a more proper way to translate it into English, I'll adopt it. I'm not having problems with anything else when translating its text, but with this word I do.

Among a few other things, the text addresses a supposed profane and perfidious characteristics of women who manipulate, lie or are insincere; in contrast to the supposedly rare sincere and morally elevated women that can still be found – those who are suitable for a good spouse.

In the text, the author exaustively uses the word "espertinha", which literally translates to "smarthead" or "smartass", exclusively in reference to women who are insincere or manipulate men's emotions, and sometimes used to refer to women who cheat on them. Even though aforementioned translations seem to suffice in a single sentence translated, it happens to appear hundred of times in the text, what is irritating even when reading it in Portuguese. So, given situation I would like to gather a list of words to use as a substitution to those, or even better, one that properly means "insincere woman", since "smarthead" or "smartass" seems too inappropriate or "forced" into the text, for they do not address the issue very specifically. Just for you to have an idea, here are some quotes of the book.

Unfortunately, women are nowadays and in most part negatively polarized in the relationship with the men, not always giving space to the good and superior part that exists in them. The truly sincere ones, who actually exist, are lost amidst the crowds and can’t be easily found, because the smartheads pretend to be honest women themselves.


A typical simulation of misunderstanding happens when, in faking innocence, the smartheads pretend they can't notice the explicit intentions of the males around them, thus refusing to acknowledge the implications of their improper and tolerant attitudes towards men who are courting them.

I even thought about replacing it for other words, according to my understanding, but in the specific case of this word, the author sometimes uses this word repeatedly to address an entire issue, sometimes in explorations that take many pages, and he insists in using only this word. Here is a case, for example, in which he specifically mentions the word.

May it be understood, that when I use the expressions "such women", "these women", "the women", "smartheads", "manipulators", etc, that I am referring exclusively to the insincere, the ones who cheat in the game of love, not to the others.

In conclusion, I don't now how to translate "espertinha" in this context.


After almost 4 years since this question was posted, there's been one remarkable instance and several minor ones of people taking issue w/ what has been written here. I deleted half of it because of that.

Now, it baffles me that some people are just so unreasonable, not understanding the sole purpose of this question was to improve my English knowledge.

If you should take any problem with what's written above, know that's not a issue of mine. It's been 4 years and I'd be pleased to be left alone.

Also bear in mind that I'll reject any requests to edit this section out.


5 Answers 5


Minx. It is never used for a man. It connotes manipulation, especially using feminine charm, and still applies to a woman influencing either a man or a woman. "Minx"is a bit old-fashioned; so is the action you are describing.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "Minx: Girl or woman who knows how to control other people to her advantage."

By the Collins Dictionary, "Minx: Bold, flirtatious, or scheming woman."

  • 2
    '"Minx"is a bit old-fashioned; so is the action you are describing.' - Dishonesty and manipulativeness in women is old-fashioned?
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 22:37
  • Where I live, at least, women are much more direct and aggressive in these pursuits than was typical fifty years ago.
    – Theresa
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 23:06
  • 1
    Minx is pretty good, pretty good. The only issue is that it's not much used whereas espertinha is. That said, it does convey the meaning accurately.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:20

There is this word for such a manipulative woman from Greek mythology: Siren

  1. Greek Mythology One of a group of sea nymphs who by their sweet singing lured mariners to destruction on the rocks surrounding their island.

2.A woman regarded as irresistibly alluring.

[American Heritage Dictionary]


Try Unscrupulous.

Manipulative was suggested in a earlier comment, because of disapproving connotation. Definition: "..showing skill at influencing somebody or forcing somebody to do what you want, often in an unfair way.." Ref: Oxford Dictionary online. Manipulative is making someone else act, and using unfair tactics.

Try Unscrupulous "...without moral principles; not honest or fair." Oxford Dictionary online. Without trying to influence anyone to act, the person is just without moral principles and is dishonest with everyone.

Any number of other words come to mind. Deviant, amoral, or immoral all can also be used to a closer fit--amoral being the strongest (worst) of the three. Some proximate synonyms are wicked. bad, black, dark, she wolf, evil, deceitful, sorceress, temptress, iniquitous, and nefarious to name a few.


Jezebel [jez-uh-bel, -buh l]


  1. Also Douay Bible, Jez·a·bel. the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. I Kings 16:31.
  2. (often lowercase) a wicked, shameless woman.

Jezebel (plural Jezebels)

(pejorative) An evil, scheming or shameless woman; an immoral woman.

1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter X:

I accused her in set terms of giving me the heave-ho in order that she could mercenarily marry a richer man. I called her a carrot-topped Jezebel whom I was thankful to have got out of my hair.

  • 1
    Jezebel has connotations of flagrant adultery and murderous scheming. It seems too strong to me.
    – Theresa
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 20:59

The woman is a vamp.

I take it to mean that espertinha is female-oriented diminutive Portuguese for esperto which I have seen float around as clever, sly, cunning, etc. This would mean that this is an adjective said of a woman, along the lines of "little cunning one."

In English, a vamp is someone, specifically, a woman, that uses her sexual attraction for the sake of manipulating a man, a woman, or a situation, for her personal gain. It has similar connotations to seductress or temptress without the explicit implications of bedding the target, though the route for exploitation is the same -- female allure.

Also note the close similarity to another word which is vampire. They don't mean the same thing, however the word vamp really evokes this feeling of someone who is predatory and is a drain on its prey.

I should note an honorable mention: maneater. There's even pop songs about this particular phrase defining it as a woman who "makes you want all of her love" while making you spend yourself.

  • Does 'espertinha' convey notions of sexual attraction to manipulate? Isn't the prototypical example of a vamp Mae West?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:16
  • @Mitch I think that's the million dollar question here -- to what degree is the entrapment? OP describes the woman in question as one who "manipulates, lies or is insincere" and that this woman "manipulates men's emotions, and (the term is) sometimes used to refer to a woman who cheats on them." There is a degree of emotional and maybe sexual manipulation that permeates the tone here...
    – psosuna
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 0:28
  • @Mitch The description of the woman in question is probably something like the woman embodied in the Japanese song カリソメ乙女 (Karisome Otome,Temporary Virgin) by 椎名林檎 (Shiina Ringo). Lyrics can be found here (they are in English): songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858667828 though I wonder if my knowledge of this song and its plausibility in attachment to this topic is painting my answer as such.
    – psosuna
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 0:36
  • Also what is with me and using songs to define things today? I'll stop now...
    – psosuna
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 0:37
  • @Mitch The term means: a "clever little woman". It could also be said of a man: espertinho. It is basically a put-down. The diminuitive inha/inho is used to disparage the person who is called that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 16:22

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