One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
As a pre- or postpositive: designating a Japanese merchant ship. Hence in Nautical slang (US): a Japanese (or, by extension, U.S.) ship of any kind.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850–1935), Japanologist. From Japanese maru, second element of the names of merchant ships, of uncertain origin.
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