|"Maru" in a ship's name|
|Photo credit: Ciro Cattuto|
|Used under a Creative Commons licence.|
The names of many Japanese merchant vessels such as
Nippon maru (
The word maru was also used in infant names of boys,
yōmyō, yōmei (
The origin of the maru in the names of boys is said by some to
have come from a Japanese word for excrement, maro, or from
potty, o-maru, in an effort to ward off demons by giving the
child an unpleasant name. Another explanation is that it came from the
similar maro (
For the names of boats, multiple explanations have been proposed since
the Edo period (1603-1867), including that it comes from the boy's name ending
maru, or from the name ending maro (
Names ending in maru were popular during the Edo period (1603-1867), and a Japanese shipping law of 1900 (Meiji 33) said "船舶ノ名称ニハ成ルベク 其ノ末尾ニ丸ノ字ヲ附セシムルベシ" (As far as possible, ships should be given names ending in the character "maru".)
Jim Breen's original answer
In the 1905 edition of Basil Hall Chamberlain's "Things Japanese" he says of maru "It is often asked: what does the word Maru mean in the names of ships ...?" His answer is:
- the real meaning is obscure
- it is probably merging of two words: maru and maro, which was a term of endearment.
- it used to be used for swords, armour, parts of castles, etc. too.
This answer was originally contributed by Jim Breen, but has since been heavily edited.
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