Brazil - Etymology

Etymology

The word "Brazil" comes from brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast. In Portuguese, brazilwood is called pau-brasil, with the word brasil commonly given the etymology "red like an ember", formed from Latin brasa ("ember") and the suffix -il (from -iculum or -ilium). As brazilwood produces a deep red dye, it was highly valued by the European cloth industry and was the earliest commercially exploited product from Brazil. Through the 16th century, massive amounts of brazilwood were harvested by indigenous peoples (mostly Tupi) along the Brazilian coast, who sold the timber to European traders (mostly Portuguese, but also French) in return for assorted European consumer goods.

The official name of the land, in original Portuguese records, was the "Land of the Holy Cross" (Terra da Santa Cruz), but European sailors and merchants commonly called it simply the "Land of Brazil" (Terra do Brasil) on account of the brazilwood trade. The popular appellation eclipsed and eventually supplanted the official name. Early sailors sometimes also called it the "Land of Parrots" (Terra di Papaga).

In the Guarani language, an official language of Paraguay, Brazil is called "Pindorama". This was the name the natives gave to the region, meaning "land of the palm trees".

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