Word of the Week (118): BRASILIN (probability 9234), by David Sutton

BRASILIN is a dyestuff obtained from brazil-wood, which is either the hard reddish timber of the East Indian SAPAN (or SAPPAN) tree or the timber of a similar tree found in South America. The word ultimately derives from the Latin brasilium, which referred to the red dyewood brought from the East; when the similar South American tree was discovered the country it was found in became known as terra de brasil, land of red dyewood, which gives us our modern Brazil.

BRASILIN has a variant BRAZILIN, and also gives rise to BRASILEIN and BRAZILEIN, which are dyestuffs obtained by the oxidation of brasilin or brazilin.

There are plenty of other woods that yield a dyestuff. LOGWOOD is the heavy red heartwood of a tree native to S. America, used in dyeing; it is also known as CAMPEACHY wood (from Campeche in SE Mexico, from where it was first exported.) The West African CAMWOOD gives a red dye. The West Indian tree known as FUSTIC (or FUSTOC or FUSTET) gives a yellow dye.

A certain East Indian tree of the spurge family has red dusty hairs that yield an orange dyestuff known as KAMALA (or KAMELA or KAMILA), which is used in dyeing silk. The North American QUERCITRON tree or yellow-barked oak is also known as the dyer's oak. The pods of the small American DIVIDIVI tree are used in dyeing and tanning. And finally CALLIATOR (or CALLIATURE) is an old term for another tropical dye-wood, perhaps red SANDERS (note that SANDERS is another name for sandalwood, and gives the plural SANDERSES).


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