tropical American plant, also its root used as a medicinal preparation, 1570s, from Spanish zarzaparrilla, from zarza "bramble" (from Arabic sharas "thorny plant" or Basque sartzia "bramble") + parrilla, diminutive of parra "vine," which is of unknown origin.
In 16c.-17c. the dried roots were held to be efficient in treatment of syphilis. From mid-19c. applied to a sweet soft drink made with the root extract (originally with suggestion of medicinal benefit).