Japanese Zeros?

In WW2 did the Japanese actually call their fighter planes Zeros? Doesn’t sound like a Japanese word to me. Was it a corruption of a word the Japs did use? Or did we just make it up out of thin air?

If we just made it up----then why did we pick that particular name?

I was told it was an Allied word and if you look at the Rising Sun symbol on the wings, that’s your ‘zero’.

The Japanese never called it that, the US forces did. The actual model is the Mitsubishi A6M2 Type O Carrier Fighter.

Here’s a quote from “The Carrier War”, a book put out by Time-Life Books as part of their The Epic of Flight series back in 1982, from page 76:

Hope that helps, and I hope I don’t get busted for quoting too much of a copyrighted source, even though I cited it pretty extensively.

It was officially the Mitsubishi A6M2. Later production models went up to A6M8. But it was dubbed the Zero based on its type number (Type 0) which came from the last digits of the year it entered service (1940, the 2600th year of the Nipponese dynasty).

So it was the Mitsubishi Type 0 Carrier Fighter. It was popularly dubbed the Zero-Sen.

Shortened to Zero. It was called the Zeke by Allied pilots.

I once saw a Mitsubishi SUV in So. Cal. with the license plate A6M TYP0. I thought it was funny.

That clears most of it up.

In Zero-Sen —does Sen mean “type” in Japanese?

And what is the word for “zero” in Japanese? Somehow I doubt it is ‘zero’.

Did the Japanese actually use the full designation---- A6M2 Type 0---- in denoting it or did they use the shortened “pet” name for the aircraft too? ------

— If it was Zero-Sen as their shortened version, the “zero” part just doesn’t seem right as far as sounding like a Japanese word.

That was a vanity plate, right? The odds otherwise must be astronomical and would make it even more hilarious.

This site contains a list ofUS code names for Japanese aircraft in WW II. Scroll down near the bottom of the site.

The plane popularly called “Zero” was code named “Zeke.” In aircraft identification training we got a figurative knuckle rap for calling it a Zero.

Believe it or not, “Zero” is the Japanese word for Zero. In total, however, there are three words for Zero in the Japanese language: "zero, "“rei” and “maru”.

“Sen” is the Japanese abbreviation for “Sen-To-Ki” or “fighter plane.” “Sen” therefore, means fighter in Japanese.

“Zerosen” or “Reisen” are the Japanese terms used by the Japanese for describing the A6M series of planes. (I’ve never seen “Maru” used in this context though.)

If they were describing a specific “Reisen/zerosen” model, they would say: A6M2-N, A6M2-K, A6M3, A6M4, A6M5, etc.

It is also referred to as the “Zero-gata.”

“Gata” means “type”.

Also, FYI:

—ëí=“zerosen” or “zero fighter” in Japanese Kanji
‚º‚낹‚ñ = “zerosen” in Japanese Hirigana

Rei & Zero both mean “Zero” in Japanese, so:
Reisen= Rei Sentoki (zero fighter)
Zerosen = Zero Sentoki (zero fighter)

Lot of great info there—



This word’s etymology is quite fascinating. The concept of zero apparently arose with the Babylonians who devised a symbol for it by about the second century B.C. This likely influenced the adoption of the concept in India somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D. Their word for the notion of zero' was (Sanskrit) shunya empty.’ By the 9th century the Arabs had got hold of the idea, which they called as-sifr. It was not until the 13th century that the word entered Latin as cifra and zefirum. By the 14th century, French had the word chiffre and Italian had zefiro and zevero. The Venetian dialect produced zero from the latter. In the 15th century we find zero in English and zéro in French, as well as the synonym cipher.

It’s possible that over time the word migrated from Babylon to Japan (via the Arabs).

The official name of the plane in question is “Rei-shiki Kanjo Sentouki”. “rei”=zero, “shiki”=type, “kanjo”=onboard a ship (i.e. carrier-based), “sentouki”=fighter aircraft. According to some sources (OK, web pages), “zero-sen” was a fairly common nickname among the Japanese navy personnel.

The word “zero” entered the Japanese language as a borrowed English word. During WWII there was an attempt to purge the Japanese language of foreign-origin words like this, but the military were exempt from this.

Oops, I meant to say “zero-shiki” was a fairly common nickname. I think “zero-sen” is a more recent term but I haven’t found any definitive source on this.

Zero Sen also happens to be the name of some of my Okinawan friends’ band.

The name comes from the fighter, so it’s a fairly commonly-known nickname.

I bet you’re one of a select few who ever got the joke.