1570s, via Portuguese Japao, Dutch Japan, acquired in Malacca from Malay (Austronesian) Japang, from Chinese jih pun, literally "sunrise" (equivalent of Japanese Nippon), from jih "sun" + pun "origin." Japan lies to the east of China. Earliest form in Europe was Marco Polo's Chipangu.
"to coat with lacquer or varnish" in the manner of Japanese lacquer-work, 1680s, from Japan. Related: japanned; japanning. Hence also japonaiserie (1896, from French). Japanned work being generally black, japanned took on a slang sense of "ordained into the priesthood."
updated on January 23, 2016