The English words tram and streetcar are used interchangeably in this book for the same object. Tramway and street railway are also used interchangeably and tramway always means the line, never the vehicle. The American term trolley is sometimes used for electric tram or streetcar.

In Brazil, as in other countries, the categories of tramway (or street railway) and railroad overlap. The early steam-powered lines that ran on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Recife might also be called miniature railroads and some of the equipment that ran on interurban electric lines was similar to what ran on suburban railroads. All railway operations with tramway characteristics are considered.

Portuguese is the language of Brazil and acquaintance with a few words is useful for understanding its tramways. The Portuguese word used in Brazil for tram or streetcar is bonde; formerly spelled bond; diminuitive bondinho. Its origin is uncertain. Residents of Belém claim that the vehicle was named after James Bond, the American who built the first street railway in that city. Most historians believe that it came from the English word bond that was used for the tram tickets issued by the American-owned Botanical Garden Rail Road in Rio de Janeiro: there was a drawing of a tram on the ticket and the word came to be used for the vehicle itself. As with the word tram in English, both bonde and bondinho in Portuguese have come recently to be used for aerial cable car, amusement park train, etc., any small vehicle, even rubber-tired. Tramway in Brazil is linha de bonde. The English word tramway was sometimes used for street railway but more often meant industrial railway. Carril (pl., carris) or ferrocarril is a general term for small railroad. Estrada de ferro is a large railroad. [In Spanish, ferrocarril, usually written as one word, = railroad; tramway = tranvía.]

Portuguese spelling has changed slightly during the tram era. Bonde was formerly spelled bond; elétrico was spelled electrico; Manaus used to be written Manáos; etc. In this book, when citing the names of tramway companies, government agencies, publications, etc., the spelling of the original is used: Empreza de Tracção Electrica de Aracajú - not Empresa de Tração Elétrica de Aracaju, as it would be written today; Annuario do Parahyba - not Anuário de Paraíba; etc. But when referring to modern titles or simply to Portuguese words or names of places in the text, the modern Brazilian spelling is used: bonde, Paraíba, Manaus, etc. The modern spelling used is that of Brazil and not that of Portugal, which is sometimes different. Brazil was formerly spelled with a z in Brazil; today Brazilians write Brasil.

Some place names have changed. This is particularly true of street names but it is also true of the names of cities. Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina state, was called Destêrro until 1895. João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba state, was called Parahyba do Norte until 1930. The most peculiar problem afflicting the student of Brazilian history is the tradition, which Brazilians say originated with foreigners, of referring to capital cities by the names of states. Belém is often referred to as Pará. Recife is sometimes called Pernambuco. The city of Salvador was - and by some still is - referred to as Bahia. In this study, except when citing titles (see above), streets and cities will be called by their official modern names. References to alternate names of cities can be found in the Index, Part 9.

The metric scale is used in this book to note distances. It has been the standard in Brazil since 1875, when Brazil signed the International Bureau of Weights & Measurements agreement in Paris, and it is believed that it can be understood without difficulty by readers who are accustomed to the imperial scale. 10 kilometers = 6 miles. 1435 millimeters = 4 feet 8 1/2 inches. Dates are noted by day/month/year in the text, but in the reverse sequence of year/month/day when citing issues of a periodical in footnotes or in the bibliographies of Parts 7 and 8.