I am translating a book from Portuguese into English, one which I personally regard as a modern masterpiece, for being so close to my heart. The work has had a very profound impact among Brazilians, specially on online discussion forums, the now extinct Orkut social network and is still somewhat discussed in some blogs around the internet.

It was published under the pseudonym Nessahan Alita, an author about whom not much is known, but much is speculated.

In English however, I feel there's the need for a translation of this book. But for that to be possible, I need your help with 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 the profane and perfidious characteristics of women who manipulate, lie or are insincere; in contrast to the less-common 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 wish I could have a few other words, or a single one that is better to use in place of "smarthead". Not only it is annoying to see the same word being statically used a hundred of times across the text, but that "smarthead" and "smartass" seems also inappropriate. I wish there was a noun that properly describes this type of women. If such exists, I'd be very glad to know it. Thanks.

  • 6
    "...the text addresses the profanity and the perfidy characteristic to females who manipulate, lie or are insincere, in contrast to the fewer sincere and morally elevated women that can still be found, those who are suitable for a good spouse." OMG. (Welcome to the site. You might be looking for "bitch".) Again, OMG. – anongoodnurse Aug 26 '17 at 22:36
  • 1
    haha i thought this would elicit a few responses in comments – Gary Aug 26 '17 at 22:37
  • 1
    I think the key problem you will have here, is you have explained one set of characteristics, but asked for a translation for a word that has nothing really to do with them. You might get some ideas from here : quora.com/What-is-the-female-equivalent-of-philanderer – Gary Aug 26 '17 at 22:41
  • 2
    And "smarthead" is not a word, and has no meaning in English. A smartass is a person who makes sarcastic remarks. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Aug 27 '17 at 4:10
  • 2
    No, not coquette. That is just a woman who flirts. Your biggest issue is that espertinha means a woman who is acting like a smarty-pants. The single words in English for women don't work and the other words don't mean a woman necessarily. That is the real issue here. That said: smarty-pants could work if you ignore the gender issue. None of the words so far provide the meaning of: Well, aren't you a little smarty? Espertinha is that: a little smarty. – Lambie Jul 9 '18 at 14:05

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."

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    '"Minx"is a bit old-fashioned; so is the action you are describing.' - Dishonesty and manipulativeness in women is old-fashioned? – Zebrafish Sep 8 '18 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 Sep 8 '18 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 Nov 7 '18 at 22:20

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Jezebel has connotations of flagrant adultery and murderous scheming. It seems too strong to me. – Theresa Sep 8 '18 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.

| improve this answer | |
  • Does 'espertinha' convey notions of sexual attraction to manipulate? Isn't the prototypical example of a vamp Mae West? – Mitch Nov 7 '18 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 Nov 8 '18 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 Nov 8 '18 at 0:36
  • Also what is with me and using songs to define things today? I'll stop now... – psosuna Nov 8 '18 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 Nov 8 '18 at 16:22

Not to be unfair with the other answerers, but I found a word that, to me, incorporates the undertones and the respective nuances meant by the author when he says "espertinha", in most of the situations.

The feminine characteristic he tries to make the reader aware of by using "espertinha" is "coquetry", and as far as I know we don't have such a word in Portuguese. So, after I spent considerable time comparing dictionary definitions and looking for texts where such word is found, I found adequate to use "coquetry" for the characteristic of an "espertinha", and "coquette" as a direct translation of that word.

And before someone comes here and comments that "coquette" just means a woman who flirts - as @Lambie pointed out -after I did a good bunch of reading and researching, I found this word is indeed used in the context I described. Just to give a few examples, here is the Merriam Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary's definition:




plural coquettes

[count] literary + formal

: a woman who likes to win the attention or admiration of men but does not have serious feelings for them : 

Now the Cambridge Dictionary:


a woman who likes to attract attention by behaving as if she is sexually interested in people, in a pleasant but not serious way

Whereas the Oxford Dictionary defines it as simply:


  1. A woman who flirts.

Anyways, thanks for every answer, I found this question to produce very valuable answers.

Apart of that, I chose for "coquette" a long time ago, but just now I came back to answer this question.

| improve this answer | |
  • It's interesting to see how people behave badly on Stack Exchange: this question only got upvotes so far. As soon as I answered it myself, people began downvoting it. – Ezequiel Barbosa Nov 29 '18 at 23:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.