EP word of the week (#106): quina

Hello, everyone!

To finish this month’s words of the week, which were all related either to Portuguese grammar or Portuguese history and symbols, I bring you another word that’s culturally significant to Portugal and the Portuguese: I’m talking about [a] quina, which was a general meaning of “set of five equal (or similar items)” [from Latin quina, “five at a time, five each”], but is also used to mean [1]:

  1. For any playing card, domino piece or rolling dice with 5 in it;
  2. A series of five numbers in an horizontal line in lotto games;
  3. More importantly, the 5 blue-and-white escutcheons present in the shield of the Portuguese flag, which give it the name of [a] bandeira das Quinas.

Each of the five escutcheons has a five X-dot pattern in it, which serves as a double reminder of their name; while the flag of Portugal in its current form was only adopted in 1911, the escutcheons have been a part of Portuguese flags ever since the founding of the country in the 11th century (as you can see in the Wikipedia page of the flag). They’re traditionally meant to symbolize the 5 Moorish kings that our first monarch, D. Afonso Henriques, defeated on the Battle of Ourique (1139), but said Wikipedia article explains that they came to be in a much more interesting and mundane fashion related to worn-out flags and nail marks; you should definitely take some time to read it and learn more about it (and with it, our history) !

Portuguese shield – 7 castles and 5 escutcheons (“Castelos e Quinas”).

Similarly, the castles are meant to symbolize the castles D. Afonso Henriques conquered during Portugal’s southward expansion during his reign (that said, they were added to the shield much later, and therefore serve more as pieces of symbolism than factual markings of his achievements).

In any case, our centuries-old association with [as] Quinas makes them a good symbol of the country, and they’re sometimes used to represent it metonymically: for example, if you hear A Equipa das Quinas in reference to a Portuguese national sports team (usually in the context of association football, but only because that’s the most widely talked-about sport), now you know exactly what people mean by this!

Have a nice week, and see you next Wednesday for a new Word of the Week!

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