Word Origin & History
1550s, from Sp./Port. terra de brasil "red-dye-wood land," from Sp. brasil or It. brasile, probably connected to Fr. braize (see braize
) for resemblance of color to a glowing ember (but O.It. form verzino suggests a possible connection with Arabic wars "saffron"). Originally
the name of a type of wood from an E. Indian tree, used in making dye; the name later was transferred to a similar South American species. Brazil in reference to the wood is attested in English from late 14c. Complicating matters is Hy Brasil, a name applied by 1436 to one of the larger Azores Islands, later transferred to a legendary island or rock off the west coast of Ireland (sighted in 1791 at lat. 51° 10', long. 15° 58').