BraZilians don’t even know why BraZil is spelled with a Z

Hello, I have read and heard many Brazilians that argue about a silly letter in the English spelling of their country. Sure, we know it’s Brasil in Portuguese, but in English, it’s Brazil.

I thought the whole thing was silly, but there was quite a fight about it on Wikipedia.

In short, the reason why the country is spelled BRAZIL in English is because this is what the country was called when it was founded.

Here is a quotation from an editor on Wikipedia to try to put an end to this silly debate:

Since many people interested in this debate are foreigners and thus don’t have in-depth knowledge of Brazilian History, I want to add Brazil used to be officially called “Imperio do Brazil”. To check this information, see the 1824 Brazilian Constitution in where it’s published with the original grammar.

After the Republic was established, the country officially adopted “Republica dos Estados Unidos do Brazil” as its name. Yes, that’s right. Brazil with a “Z”. It surely gives us a very good explanation to why Brazil is spelt with a “z” in English – it’s the way it was originally spelt in Brazilian Portuguese too. Later, of course, “Brasil” was incorporated by grammar reforms and “Brazil” was scrapped, though in other languages (like English) the original spelling was maintained.

Ironically, turns out spelling Brazil with a “z” actually supports the original Brazilian Portuguese roots and therefore in no way diminishes Brazilian culture.

Anyhow, the etymologies of words in English or any language are complex, and it just takes a little digging. Another word, macaw, is the English word for arara. A Brazilian told me, why do you change the word totally for this word? I looked it up in an etymology dictionary and found the word comes from an old Portuguese word – macao. So there you go.

Finally, you should remember, you call the city of London, Londres and nobody there in London cares 🙂

(originally written by ME at


29 responses to “BraZilians don’t even know why BraZil is spelled with a Z

  1. Brazil 5x 0 United States 🙂
    Brazil 5x 0 United States 🙂
    Brazil 5x 0 United States 🙂
    Brazil 5x 0 United States 🙂
    Brazil 5x 0 United States 🙂

  2. Yeah, most of our people dont know even how to write their names. Im brazilian, and i think Adam, that you shouldnt even talk about brazil , because our country do not deserve your quoute. Sometimes i think if every Brazilian is stupied like the one that posted above. USA do not even care about this stupied games that we are hosting. If someone talk about it again, just talk about the medals that usa won and they should at least shut up.
    And all brazilians, do not be fool. Talk about our political situation at first , then talk about Bush, Because what our goverment are doing is at least a thousand times worse than the Americans are doing.
    Great post Adam. 😉

  3. I wrote this post because I got barraged with Brazilians gloating about a stupid soccer game- check out the post about TAM, a few posts back. I got over 18 comments there.

  4. I always find it interesting to compare words (both spelling and meaning) between British English and American English.

    In my view there is no “right” or “wrong” way. Both are right in their respective countries, and are just, different.

  5. OMG
    BRA 5 x 0 USA
    I Love BRs

  6. Got it? 5 x 0

  7. I really don’t care one bit about the football score, but I’m not dirven or motivated by sports of any kind to any great degree. At the end of the day, it’s only a game, and sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

    As for the spelling issue… what about Germany? The Germans call it Deutschland. Nothing like the English word Germany, or the French word Allemangne. Does it matter? No of course not, so why argue about ONE letter?

    Cities? The Germans call it Koln, we call it Cologne. AS long as we all know what we mean, what we all actually call it doesn’t matter a job….

    In fact back to sport for a moment… only three countries in the world call it soccer (US, Canada, and Australia) the rest of the world call it football – which is actually more logical as it is played PRIMARILY with the feet, but who cares? It’s just another silly argument to pick, if you’ve nothing better to do!

    • You are so wise! And so right (about the football and soccer)!!! People don’t really have much to do so they go around picking silly arguments… They should get a life!!!!!

  8. Flame baiting is fun 🙂

  9. Hey I really loved your text!

    My students usually ask me that silly question! My answer to them is based on this historical fact. I even some old réis bill (money used around here a long long time ago) on which one can read “República Federativa do BraZil”.

    Another explanation I give them is this: if in English they spell Brazil with an ‘s’,pronunciation will surely be different and some jerks will keep complaining!

    Take care…

  10. BraSil is the name because of a tree called the “PAU BRASIL”, a tree with red kernels that the Portuguese took much of the country to Portugal to make ink.

    Go study history!

  11. Sely,

    That’s one point of view, but again, remember that your country name in Portuguese once was spelled with a “z” in your constitution. However, with modernization in Portuguese, it changed to s, which is fine. English does not have to change at the same rate that Portuguese does. So, my argument is valid.

  12. Gramatic rules always changes… Its just a difference between english and portuguese (BR), we’re not stupid because of this!!! You cant argument based in the portuguese of portugal (the constitution of 84 was from the portuguese government).

  13. oops, 1824, hehe

  14. PS.: the portugal portuguese and the brazilian portuguese are different. soh, the 1824 constitutuon is writed in portugal portuguese!!!

  15. Note the title of the post. I have read some arguments on Wikipedia and people have argued with me that English should change. Continental Portuguese also spells Brazil with an s. There is nothing wrong with spelling it with an s, but English reserves its right to do so, especially since it has the z sound in English.

  16. its not my point. im just entered to tell why we brazilians write with a S.

  17. Very interesting subject. What I’ve been searching online, and unfortunately have found no answer, is why Brazil was suddenly changed in Portuguese to be spelled with a s instead. Which I’m not so fond of, personally.
    Does anyone have any datum available?

  18. Perhaps it has to do with how it is pronounced.

  19. It is actually pronounced in Portuguese as a /z/ sound, because in Portuguese the letter S spelled between two vowels sounds as /z/.

  20. Edward J. Cunningham

    Has Brazil requested that other countries refer to it as “Brasil” when writing in different languages other than Portuguese, just as Côte d’Ivoire has asked other nations not to translate the name of their country? If Brazil does not object to “Brazil” in English, then I don’t know why we are having this debate.

  21. It was a silly arguement. Also in English we say Ivory Coast because we have no idea how to pronounce the other name.

  22. I have to tell you, Adam: you are so dull…. Poor you… If I were you, I´d start to study some history. As everybody know, Brasil is a country with a lot of etnical differences, because we have people from all over the world. And in your contry, you have the same differences. The question is: we accept the people. We act as if we were the same, because we are the same.
    And see: Brasil is so nice, that I´m answering you in English. I could be answering in Portuguese, so you would have to translate to your language. Because in Brasil, we don´t have to learn just the Portuguese and be idiots like you American. We learn Portuguese, English, Spanish, and a lot of languages since the Elementary School. See? Brasil is a fascinating country where people can study and at the same time, have lots of interesting things to do ( practice sports, read, visit the beauty of the nature), and not become a lot of bitch, ridiculous and ugly girls, and idiot, cuckold guys. Take care, Adam. The next one may be you. Think, poor guy, think. Shame on you…

  23. Pingback: 2010 in review | Adam’s random blog

  24. and then I went ask about tolerant brasilians true kinja inhabitants, waimiri, yanomami and many other suffering, murdered, true brasilians, then bolivians, peruvians and so on and all told me that it will be nice if all these ex sleeves and unpure indio europeo crossbreds goes where they came from and brazil is what it used to be. Paradise. Till then, it will be mainly destroyed polluted slum. Sorry if i consider povos being only true brazilians and dont think that caboclos and mestizos can even think about rasizm and intolerance . ( While it is true that brazil is VERY rasistic and full of prejudice ) And you can be very proud of genocide you comitted and daily comitting on that country’s nature and resources and their people. I am very sure nobody will tell you big thanks for
    …yellow fever for indigenous people, burning green jungle and blue balls in center of it. All you need is slap ordem and progresso on it and then you can start to dance. I never heard about intolerance between aliens. peace

  25. So Brazilians mus henceforth stop referring to the USA as EUA, England as Inglaterra, etc. etc. Brazilians are smart about a lot of things, but when they become nationalistic and linguistic jingoes they are bores.

  26. I don’t find troubling the idea that “Brazil” and “Brasil” are spelled differently. I do find troubling the idea among English speakers that their use of the word “Brazil” should never, ever change regardless of whether people of that country should object or not. That Italians don’t object to Americans to calling their country “Italy” instead of “Italia” or Germans not minding that we call their country “Germany” instead of “Deutschland” is irrelevant. If Brazilians want English-speakers to using an “s” when referring to their country and people, the least we can do is oblige them. When I was a kid, the capital of China was “Peking.” Now we call it “Beijing.” The Earth will not stop turning on its axis if we start writing “Brazil” as “Brasil.”

  27. I’m brazilian. When you find brazilians who argue for such things, just remember.
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” – Mark Twain

    Don’t waste your time discussing with idiots. Just ignore them.

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