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tropical American plant, 1570s, from Spanish zarzaparrilla, from zarza "bramble" (from Arabic sharas "thorny plant" or Basque sartzia "bramble") + parrilla, diminutive of parra "vine," which is of unknown origin. Hence, also, "a medicinal preparation of sarsaparilla" (1570s). In 16c.-17c. the dried roots were held to be efficient in treatment of syphilis.