Names of Japan
Further information: Wiktionary etymology for the word "Japan"
The English word Japan is an exonym. The Japanese names for Japan are Nippon (にっぽん?), listen (help·info), and Nihon (にほん?), listen (help·info). They are both written in Japanese using the kanji 日本. The Japanese name Nippon is used for most official purposes, including on Japanese money, postage stamps, and for many international sporting events. Nihon is a more casual term and the most frequently used in contemporary speech. Japanese people refer to themselves as Nihonjin (日本人?) and they call their language Nihongo (日本語?).
Both Nippon and Nihon literally mean "the sun's origin" and are often translated as the Land of the Rising Sun. This nomenclature comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty and refers to Japan's eastward position relative to China. Before Nihon came into official use, Japan was known as Wa (倭?) or Wakoku (倭国?).
The English word for Japan came to the West from early trade routes. The early Mandarin or possibly Wu Chinese (吳語) word for Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters 日本 'Japan' is Zeppen [zəʔpən]; in Wu, the character 日 has two pronunciations, informal (白讀?) [niʔ] and formal (文讀?) [zəʔ]. (In some southern Wu dialects, 日本 is pronounced [niʔpən], similar to its pronunciation in Japanese.) The old Malay word for Japan, Jepang (now spelled Jepun in Malaysia, though still spelled Jepang in Indonesia), was borrowed from a Chinese language, and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguese traders in Malacca in the 16th century. It is thought the Portuguese traders were the first to bring the word to Europe. It was first recorded in English in a 1565 letter spelled Giapan.
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