Why do Japanese ships have “maru” affixed to their names? (2)

“Maru” Is a Symbol of Perfection

日本語は英語の下にございます。/ Japanese translation is below the English text.

This is the second of the five posts on: Why do Japanese ships have “maru” affixed to their names?:
=> (1) The Maru Ship: Japanese Ship Names Often End With “Maru”
(2) “Maru” is a Symbol of Perfection
=> (3) “Maru” in the Names of Other Things
=> (4) How To Fend Off Demons From Your Baby
=> (5) Modern Japanese Ship Names and “Maru”



1. “Maru” means a circle and is a symbol of perfection
2. An image of the sun
3. Derivatives of “maru”
4. The Chinese way of saying “maru”
5. A successful voyage

1) “Maru” means a circle and a symbol of perfection

In Japanese, the word “maru” has very good meanings.

First, it means a circle, and since it’s associated with the full moon and the sun, it is the symbol of perfection.

For example, the following poem shows that the full moon embodied the author’s situation where his every desire was fulfilled.

An image of the full moon, a symbol of perfection.
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します] Mochizuki, the full moon, is a symbol of perfection.

Kono yo o ba waga yo to zo omou mochizuki no kaketaru koto mo nashi to omoeba

(This world is entirely my own, since just like the full moon there’s nothing missing in it!)

by Fujiwara no Michinaga

It was 1018 that Fujiwara no Michinaga, an aristocrat-statesman sang this famous poem at a party. He just had his third daughter, after the first and the second, enter the imperial court as a consort of an emperor. Now he was the emperors’ father-in-law triple fold and had political influence more than anyone else.

2) An image of the sun

an image of a battle surcoat with symbol of the sun
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します] A battle surcoat with a symbol of the sun from the 17th century handed down in the Date family / 江戸時代初期から伝わる伊達家の日章つき陣羽織

In more ancient Japan, some people believed in the sun god.

Among them were powerful tribes who worshipped round, bronze mirrors which looked like the sun when they reflected light.

As time went by, the round bronze mirror remained very important; it is actually one of the three treasures that the Japanese imperial family has handed down over generations as proofs of their legitimacy. (The other two treasures are a sword and a jade called “maga-tama’).

The Japanese national flag shows a red round shape on white background. At the end of the Edo Era, the government decided that all Japanese ships hoist a flag with this design called “nissho” (the sun design). This design was not new. Before it thus represented the country, it had been popular in Japan for centuries for its auspicious image.

3) Derivatives of “maru”

An image of a test with many correct answers which are acknowledged with circles
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します] Correct answers in an exam are acknowledged with “maru” or circles / テストで正しい答えには丸がつきます

Since “maru” means a circle or a round shape, it has several derivatives with good connotation.

For example, “marui” is an adjective meaning round. “Maruku” is an adverb meaning roundly or amicably. And another adjective, “maroyaka” means mellow (not edgy such as too salty, spicy, bitter or sour), of taste of food.

These words are used in such idioms as “hitogara ga marui (gentle, of a person’s character)”, “momegoto o maruku osameru (a dispute gets settled amicably)”, and “maroyaka na aji (mellow taste, of food).

4. The Chinese way of saying “maru”

“Maru” can be rephrased as “en”, a Chinese-oriented word.

“En” is spelled “円” with a Chinese character and we use it in many idioms. “円”, as well as “maru”, is a symbol of perfection, and here are some examples:

  • 家庭円満 (pronounced katei-enman, happy family)
  • 夫婦円満 (huuhu-enman, happy husband and wife)
  • 円熟 (enjuku, mature, ripe and rich, speaking of a skill of an artist, etc.)
  • 大団円 (daidanen, the full circle in a theater play).

5. A successful voyage

In search of the reason why many Japanese ships have “maru” at the end of their names, some think that “maru” could indicate a circle-shaped route. Even if it’s not literally circle, it can indicate a successful trip in which a ship safely returns to the original point as if it traces a complete circle.

Therefore, according to them, the “maru” is a suffix to wish for successful voyages.

Please continue reading: => “Maru” in the names of other things

[End of English post]





1. 「まる」は円の形、かつ完全の象徴
2. 太陽のイメージ
3. 「まる」の派生語
4. 中国語式に「まる」を言うと
5. 航海の成功 

1. 「まる」は円の形、かつ完全の象徴







2. 太陽のイメージ





3. 「まる」の派生語




4. 中国語式に「まる」を言うと



5. 航海の成功



続きはこちら =>  他のものについた「まる」について


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