First off, the word nihon 日本 written with the kanji for day or sun 日 and the kanji for book, truth, counting long cylindrical objects, and a zillion other things 本, has the very simple meaning of... "Japan." Yep, that's right. The word nihon means Japan.
(not to be confused with nihon 二本 which means "two long cylindrical objects.")
But what about the go 語? What is nihongo in Japanese? What's the difference between nihon and nihongo? With nihon being "Japan," what could nihongo possibly mean in the Japanese language? In Japanese, what could it be?? In Japanese??? Japanese????? Japanaeeeeeeeseeeeee!!!!
Alright, alright, you get it. The word nihongo means "Japanese language" in the Japanese language. The go 語, by the way, is a suffix meaning "language" and it can be found at the end of many words for languages in Japanese.
Other Japanese ThingsBy the way I want to put emphasis on the fact that nihongo means Japanese language. There. Bolded for emphasis. This is because I don't want you thinking that nihongo means literally "Japanese."
Sure, when someone says "I'm learning Japanese" they say "Japanese" and not "Japanese language," but you know they actually mean the Japanese language.
In Japanese, nihon means "Japan", nihongo "the Japanese language". Other Japanese stuff use other words, see:
- nihonjin 日本人
Japanese person. (see jin 人 suffix)
- nihon anime 日本アニメ
Japanese anime. (as opposed to other kinds of anime)
- nihon no jinkou 日本の人口
Japanese population. (literary "the population of Japan")
- nihon no rekishi 日本の歴史
Japanese history. (literary "the history of Japan")
One last interesting note is the word nippon 日本, which is exactly the same as nihon 日本 except it sort of is.