fa·​ve·​la | \ fə-ˈve-lə How to pronounce favela (audio) \
variants: or less commonly favella

Definition of favela

: a settlement of jerry-built shacks lying on the outskirts of a Brazilian city

Examples of favela in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Franco, an outspoken defender of human rights since a stray bullet killed a friend during a shootout between police and drug traffickers in 2005, grew up in the Mare complex of favelas, or slums, where violence and police incursions are frequent. Jill Langlois, latimes.com, "Outspoken Rio councilwoman who fought for the marginalized is shot to death; thousands mourn," 15 Mar. 2018 Pacification efforts to curtail crime in these communities (also called favelas, though this term has developed a derogatory connotation over time) have not entirely worked. Nick Remsen, Vogue, "Rio de Janeiro, Right Now: 5 Reasons to Visit the Extraordinary Brazilian City," 19 Mar. 2019 Days before her assassination, Franco, an expert on police violence, accused officers of being overly aggressive in searching residents of favela slums. Washington Post, "Protests, anger a month after Brazil activist slain," 14 Apr. 2018 Rather than view the move as an invasion, violence-weary residents of the favelas, or shantytowns, hailed it as a liberation. Rick Noack, Washington Post, "Beijing’s mysterious visitor, and 6 other global stories you might have missed," 29 Mar. 2018 Probably the most famous favela in Rio de Janeiro, Santa Marta boasts colorful murals that cover over 75,000 square feet of public square. Megan Barber, Curbed, "The 25 most colorful cities in the world," 19 Feb. 2019 Those operations come as authorities seek to confront drug gangs that control many of Brazil's slum networks known as favelas. Beatrice Christofaro, Fox News, "Brazil, world leader of homicides, hits new record," 9 Aug. 2018 The mayhem in the favela of nearly 200,000 people reflects a national plague. Washington Post, "A once-trendy Rio slum is now ‘at war’," 5 Jan. 2018 Armed forces have been sent to Rio at least nine times since 1992, generally occupying key favelas (poor neighborhoods) and thoroughfares during international events or elections. Benjamin Lessing, Washington Post, "Brazil’s federal intervention in Rio’s drug wars has an authoritarian feel — and could backfire," 2 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'favela.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of favela

1946, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for favela

Brazilian Portuguese favela, perhaps from Favela, hill outside Rio de Janeiro

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Dictionary Entries near favela


fava bean






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Last Updated

28 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for favela

The first known use of favela was in 1946

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