How did Brazil get its name?


The forests of Brazil were plentiful with the brazil wood tree, used to make a dark red dye in order to color fabrics and textiles.
The forests of Brazil were plentiful with the brazil wood tree, used to make a dark red dye in order to color fabrics and textiles.

When one hears the world “Brazil,” they probably think of football (soccer), the Amazon rain forest, exotic plants and animals, or beautiful beaches swarming with bikini-clad women. However, these things have nothing to do with the name given to this South American country of over 200 million people.

The name Brazil actually comes from a tree.




When the Portuguese first arrived to what is now the Brazilian state of Bahia, they were looking for objects of value, most notably gold, silver and spices. To their dismay, they found none of these on their initial arrival. Instead, the only real object of value was a tree whose wood created a reddish dye. They called the wood pau-brasil, which means “burning coal” in Portuguese. The dye was extracted from the reddish-orange interior of the tree’s trunk, and when this part of the tree was put into water, a dark-red color appeared. As the textile trade was quite lucrative in those days, this new dye proved to be ideal for coloring fabrics.

Over the next few decades, more expeditions arrived to the new Portuguese territories for the valuable pau-brasil, or brazilwood as it is now known in English. And thus, this is how the country became known Brasil (Brazil in English), a name that it has kept ever since.


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