Brasil - Brazil

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Although the name of the largest country in South America is written with an '-s-' in its own language (Portuguese) as Brasil, in English it is written with a '-z-': Brazil. The adjective (sometimes used substantively) Brazilian also always has a '-z-' in English. (The equivalent in Portuguese is brasileiro.) Although Brazil is now always pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, IPA: /brə ˈzɪl/, it used to have the stress on the first syllable, /ˈbræ zɪ (or ə) l/.

  • The capital city of Brazil, on the other hand, is always written in both languages as Brasilia, although in correct Portuguese it is accented on the second vowel, Brasí­lia. This is the Latin form of 'Brazil'.
(It would seem logical that the adjective along with its substantive use for '[a person] belonging to the city of Brasilia' should be 'Brasilian', but this is not a word recorded in English.)
Etymological note: Brazil was originally called by Portugal, to whom the territory had been assigned by the Pope, Terra da Santa Cruz ('land of the Holy Cross'). When Portuguese explorers found copious supplies of a tree Caesalpinia echinata in the coastal regions, they found it similar to its south-east Asian relative C. sappan ('sappanwood'), which was highly valued for its red dye. (In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, sappanwood - now preferably spelled sapanwood. with a single '-p-' - was called pau-brezel or pau-brasil, 'ember-wood'. This is derived perhaps from the Spanish and Portuguese brasa 'ember', 'hot coal', cognate with 'braise', with the adjective-forming suffix -il) to describe the redness of the wood, prized for making bows for stringed instruments under the name of 'Pernambuco wood'. (Pernambuco is today one of the states of Brazil.) Early sailors gave Terra da Santa Cruz the less formal name of 'terra de brasil', 'land of the red-dye tree'. Thus the country is named after a tree - not the other way round. (The tree is now an endangered species, as a result of over-exploitation since the eighteenth century and before. It is not the producer of the Brazil nut, which is the seed of Bertholletia excelsa, an unrelated species.)
The ancient Celtic myth of Hy-Brazil, an earthly paradise to be found on an island west of Ireland, sometimes identified as one of the Azores, may have influenced the English spelling of the name of the modern country, but has otherwise no etymological connection with it. Hy-Brazil itself may be derived from the name of Bresal the 'High King of the World', but other origins have been suggested. It is variously written Hy Brasil, Hy Breasil, Hy Breasail, and Hy Breasal - never, except in error, High Brazil, although Hy- here is a homophone of 'high'.
For a similar word of European origin dating from before Columbus and applied to places in the Americas, see Antilles.