- 1550s, from Spanish/Portuguese terra de brasil "red-dye-wood land," from Spanish brasil or Italian brasile, probably connected to French braize (see braize) for resemblance of color to a glowing ember (but Old Italian form verzino suggests a possible connection with Arabic wars "saffron").
Originally the name of a type of wood from an East 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').