In Portuguese we call "carola" a (usually old) person who lives through the rules of church, and has no ears for any other reasonable argument. What is this called in English?

Some examples:

"Aquela velha é uma carola: não sai da igreja, tudo que faz é pra agradar o padre." (That old woman is a carola: doesn't leave the church, everything she does is to please the priest.)

"Aquele cara é muito carola, vive com a Bíblia debaixo do braço, e mesmo sendo um estudante de biologia não quer nem entender como a evolução funciona." (That guy is too carola, he lives with a Bible under his arm, and even being a biology student don't even want to understand how evolution works.)

If someone "has no ears for any other reasonable argument", how can this NOT be negative? Not be pejorative? In which world to be irrational, biased and prejudiced may be a good thing?

This site brings nine definitions, with the four most voted bringing only pejorative meanings. It also brings a synonyms list, which includes words like fofoqueiro (gossipy), fanático religioso (religious fanatic), santarrão (sanctimonious), energúmeno (idiot), hipócrita (hypocritical), barata-de-igreja (church-cockroach), chato (annoying) and fanático (fanatic), among others.

Antenor Nascentes dictionary (Bloch Editores, 1988) says: "Carolice = Qualidade de carola; ato próprio de carola, carolismo, beatice." Also "Beatice = Ato de fingida devoção; hipocrisia."

Electronic Houaiss 3.0 says: "Beato = [Uso: pejorativo] Que ou aquele que frequenta muito as igrejas ou que exagera nas demonstrações exteriores de sua fé e virtudes; carola."

  • If you want a pejorative term, 'fanatic' is good. The full term is 'religious fanatic' but you can drop the 'religious' if the context is clear. Why don't you think it's good? See also Word Reference which also mentions self-righteous. There may not be an exact equivalent. Carola sounds like it would have a straightforward etymology which might help–although etymology doesn't determine meaning. Nov 15, 2017 at 3:16

2 Answers 2


"carola", as defined by Dicionário Priberam of the Portuguese Language, Dicionário Aurelio and DICIO corresponds to what we call "pious" or "extremely devout" in English. Occasionally it takes a pejorative connotation but that depends on context and intonation.

The adjectives "pious" and "devout" come to mind.

TFD defines pious as

a."earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; reverent or devout: a pious nun.

b. Showing or characterized by religious devotion: pious observance.

c. Expressive of or used in religious devotion; devotional: pious readings.


  • She is a pious follower of the catholic church.

  • She is a pious woman.

  • He is a devout christian.

EDIT - Re. the OP's comments below

I've looked "carola" up in a few Portuguese dictionaries and none of them mention a pejorative connotation mentioned by the OP. The only place where a pejorative use is mentioned, is Wikipedia where it says that in addition to its traditional meaning (pious, devout), carola can also be used pejoratively for a person who just pretends to be religious.

  • 3
    collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/portuguese-english/carola for instance agrees with that but I suggest neither pious nor devout includes anything about being old, nor having no ears for any other reasonable argument. Something about dogma and rote learning hovers at the edge of my ear… Nov 14, 2017 at 0:26
  • 2
    @RobbieGoodwin A "carola" is usually, but not necessarily an old lady. The truth is that it's hard to find an extremely devout young person these days, but they do exist and "carola" is nonspecific as far as age is concerned. As for "not having ears for any reasonable argument other than the rules by which they live", well... try to dissuade a pious woman from pursuing such rules.
    – Centaurus
    Nov 14, 2017 at 0:53
  • 1
    "Pious" and "devout" both have counterparts in Portuguese ("pio" and "devoto"). "Carola" is more pejorative, meaning one who wants to control other peoples lives, and is usually hypocritical about seeing other's faults, but not his/her own (much less the faults of one's own religion). I think "Bible thumper" looks more in the same mood.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 14, 2017 at 3:31
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    Centaurus if you are a native Portuguese speaker, (I always thought you were Spanish but I could be mistaken) now is the time and place to say so. If you are Spanish, maybe the two terms differ in usage. Carriola is "wheelbarrow" in Italian, it can be used to talk about an old rusty car, long past its prime, rarely, if ever, for people.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 14, 2017 at 17:19
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    @Mari-LouA "carriola" or "cochecito" is Spanish for "stroller".
    – Centaurus
    Nov 14, 2017 at 22:24

I'm also looking for an equivalent to "carola." Pious and devout do not convey the same meaning. Carola definitely carries a pejorative connotation.

With the help of this forum and browsing the thesaurus with the suggestions above, I arrived at "puritan." Puritan will fit right into my text. Thank you!

  • 1
    You might want to have a look at "sanctimonious" as well.
    – user888379
    Jul 17 at 1:12

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