This word goes back long before the country that it now describes was even “discovered”. Originally the term described a plant that was used during the Middle Ages to produce red dye. There are many references to the so-called “brazil tree” and the practice of producing dye from it in the popular English literature of the 14th and 15th century, but it was only in 1555 when Richard Eden used the term to describe the Portuguese colonial holdings in South America and home of the “brazil tree.” The multi-talented Eden became a translator after earlier careers in banking and alchemy, and by making a wide range of European travel diaries accessible to an English speaking audience he helped to fuel the spirit of adventure that would soon send Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake on their voyages. It was in his translation Decades of the New World, a chronicle of great voyages of discovery, that the coined the term Brazil.
The etymology of the word would not be complete, however, without the contribution of Woodes Rogers, the first Governor of the Bahamas and a freebooter attacking Spanish ships, who commented in A cruising voyage round the world (1712) that the Portuguese named it Brazil from the red wood of that name.
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