How did Asian carmakers like Toyota and Honda get their names?

Mitsubishi (三菱) has two parts to its name: mitsu means three and hishi (changing to bishi in the middle of the word) means diamond (the shape). Hence, the three diamond logo. (Note that "diamond" in this context refers only to the rhombus shape, not to the precious gem.)

Daewoo was given its name by company founder Kim Woo Chong. The name means "Great House" or "Great Universe" in Korean.

Datsun was first called DAT, from the initials of its financiers Den, Aoyama and Takeuchi. It was soon changed to DATSON to imply a smaller version of their original car, then (as SON can mean "loss" in Japanese) again to DATSUN when the company was acquired by Nissan.

Nissan was its second name. The first name was Nippon Sangyo, which means "Japanese industry."

Honda was named after founder Soichiro Honda.

Hyundai connotes the sense of "the present age" or "modernity" in Korean.

Mazda was at first called Toyo Kogyo and began making Mazda brand cars in 1931, but it didn't actually change its name to Mazda until 1984. The cars ostensibly were named after Ahura Mazda, the chief deity of the Zoroastrians, though many think this explanation was created after the fact, to cover up what is simply a poor anglicized version of the founder's name, Jujiro Matsuda. This theory is supported by the fact that the company is referred to only as "Matsuda" in Japan.

Toyota is a loose translation of the name of the founder, Sakichi Toyoda. Initially called "Toyeda," it was changed after a contest for a better-sounding name. The new name was written in katakana with eight strokes, a number that is considered lucky in Japan.

Lexus doesn't mean anything, according to Toyota, which owns the brand. It’s just meant to be pleasing and easy to remember.

Dave Menard of Avanti NewsFeatures contributed to this report. You can reach's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected]

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