Etymology
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sassafras (n.)

small flowering tree of eastern North America, 1570s, from Spanish sasafras, which is perhaps an adaptation of saxifraga "saxifrage," from Late Latin saxifragia, variant of saxifraga (see saxifrage). But the dissimilarity of the tree and the rock-garden plant makes the connection difficult, and according to OED the word perhaps represents a name, now lost, in a native language of the Americas that sounded like Spanish saxifraga and was altered to conform to it. The tree supposedly was discovered by the Spanish in Florida in 1528.

updated on December 29, 2021

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