Optical constants for evaporated bismuth (Bi) films were measured by ellipsometry and compared with those published for single crystal and melt-cast polycrystalline Bi in the wavelength range of 1 to . The bulk plasma frequency and high-frequency limit to the permittivity were determined from the long-wave portion of the permittivity spectrum, taking previously published values for the relaxation time and effective mass . This part of the complex permittivity spectrum was confirmed by comparing calculated and measured reflectivity spectra in the far-infrared. Properties of surface polaritons (SPs) in the long-wave infrared were calculated to evaluate the potential of Bi for applications in infrared plasmonics. Measured excitation resonances for SPs on Bi lamellar gratings agree well with calculated resonance spectra based on grating geometry and complex permittivity.