Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


All About Protocolo

Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


The term “protocol” is familiar to most people and its derived meanings are not so different from each other. In Brazil the word “protocolo” has several different meanings. Learn in this article what they are.

In the dictionary

Although the direct translation for the word "protocolo" into English is "protocol", the definition between the two differ greatly. This definition is marked by the cultural use we Brazilians make of the term and the extra meanings we have added to its official definition.

In the Thesaurus dictionary, protocol has got three different meanings. They are:

  • A set of rules of conduct / behavior in a certain situation;
  • Etiquette;
  • Agreement/treaty.

All the three definitions are very similar among themselves as they are only variations from the main definition. On the other hand, Michaelis dictionary have eight different formal meanings for the Brazilian Portuguese word “protocolo”. They are:

  • Registration of public actions;
  • Registration of hearings at court houses;
  • Registration of a conference or diplomatic deliberation;
  • Form that regulates public actions;
  • Stamps that the Roman people used to place on the paper in which public actions would be registered;
  • Notebook where the issued mailing and the receipt of the addressees are registered;
  • A convention between two nations;
  • Set of ceremonies that must be followed when officially receiving a head of state or diplomatic representatives.

Apart from these eight definitions, there are also several other ones related to data transmission and network management systems. However, there are some other important ones that require a more detailed explanation.

Protocolo proving that a service has been rendered

Anyone who calls a call center in Brazil will hear the operator ask “Can you write down your protocol number?” This protocol number – or “número de protocolo” in Portuguese– works as a proof that you have called that particular company and, according to them, is how they can identify your call in case it is necessary to listen to it.

In this context, a protocolo is an identification number given to a customer proving that a service has been rendered. If the deadline given to the customer expires and he/she gets in touch with the company again it is important to have this number so that the company can move on with the initial request/ complaint instead of starting all over again.

Protocolo replacing a document

In Brazil, documents are very rarely issued right away. People are always expected to wait at least a couple of business days. This is the case when issuing a passport, a RG, a driver’s license, a voter registration card and so forth.

During this period in which you do not have the document with you, you will have a protocolo for it. This protocolo is a piece of paper in which the number of the document will be registered and it replaces the document for a certain period of time (usually mentioned on the protocolo).

This practice is very well accepted in Brazil but unheard of in some other countries. So before using a protocolo in a foreign country, such as replacement for a passport, for example, it is important to check if a piece of paper will be accepted as a replacement for the official document.

Protocolo proving that an order has been delivered

Protocolos can also refer to a receipt proving that an order has been delivered. Also called canhoto, this kind of protocolo is usually a small piece of paper detachable from the main paper in which the addressee signs his/her name and a document number, proving that he/she has received the order and is now responsible for it.

This type of protocolo is issued in several different situations, from companies rendering services to each other to members of different departments in a company. Its main purpose is to prove that something has been delivered and is now under someone else’s responsibility.

A good example of this procedure is Correios, the Brazilian postal services provider, that issues a protocolo whenever the deliver involves a document or a registered mail.