What Does the Word Nissan Mean?

by Richard Rowe
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Today, we might think of Nissan as "America's Japanese Automaker," but there's no doubt at all that the company's homeland is an integral part of its identity. That shows in its varied business practices, efficient production methods -- even the name "Nissan" is a heady nod to the island of steel and snow.

Nissan Name

The Nissan Motor Company came into being in 1933, from parent holding company Nihon Sangyo. The industrial group was originally formed as an offshoot of Kuhara Mining Company, but quickly became one of the largest corporate conglomerates in Japan. The name "Nihon Sangyo" derives from the formal pronunciation of "Nippon" -- which is how the Japanese pronounce "Japan" -- and "Sangyo," the Japanese word for "Industry." So, with typical Japanese creativity, the company was named "Japan Industry."

The word "Nissan" itself was derived from Nihon Sangyo's Japanese stock market trading symbol, a portmanteau of the two words that read "NiSan." The colloquial name eventually stuck, and Nihon Sangyo took it as both corporate name and the name of its new car company.

Underdog aficionados might appreciate this: Maligned as the Datsun name was in the United States, Datsun existed as an automotive company before Nissan -- and actually became Nissan later. Nissan bought the DAT Automobile company through one of its subsidiaries in 1931, then later pulled DAt out of that subsidiary and formed Nissan Motor Company around it. DAT's second car was a smaller version of its first DAT, which they called "Son of DAT," or "Datson." So technically speaking, Nissan's very first car was the 1931 Datsun.

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