Wednesday, December 7, 2011
How Brazil got its name.
Most of the theories on Brazil's etymology are fairly muddled. Wikipedia says, "Traditionally, the word "Brazil" comes from brazilwood, a timber tree that many sailors traded from Brazilian regions to Europe in the 16th century. 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).This theory is taught as official in schools of Brazil and Portugal." Somehow it's deeply unsatisfying. I am of the view that the tree is not distinctive enough to justify naming an entire region after it. Clearly, there's a need for an alternate theory. This is where Sanskrit can help. Bri/Bru, as we now know, means hill. And Shil or Shila means rock. What would you call a place where the terrain is predominantly rocky? Brushil, right? And that's how Brazil was born.