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When Suzuki brought the rugged Jimny to the U.S. in 1985, it made some minor changes and renamed it the Samurai. It was a solid hit for Suzuki, selling close to 100,000 units a year in 1986 and 1987. Part of that popularity was due to the low $6,550 base price, but it also offered equal doses of fun and offroad capability. 

Some of the Samurai’s popularity with U.S. buyers could have also been due to the name. A samurai is a warrior or knight in feudal Japan. The name sounds tough and ready for anything. It’s the exact image Suzuki wanted to portray in its “light Jeep.” 

So, what’s a Jimny? Is it an Anglicized Japanese word? Or is it a misspelling of “Jimmy,” a nickname for James, or slang for a nice, dependable guy? Maybe Suzuki’s marketing team were fans of Pinocchio and named it after Jiminy Cricket? There are three main theories about the origin of the Jimny name. Let’s check them out. 

A brief history of the Suzuki Jimny

The Suzuki Jimny started as a small kei-class vehicle made by Japan’s Hope Motor Company named the ON360. Produced in 1968 and 1969, the diminutive 4×4 was powered by a 359cc Mitsubishi engine and looked like a scaled-down Willys Jeep. In 1970, Suzuki bought the Hope Motor Company and renamed the ON360 the LJ10, which stood for “Light Jeep.” According to Silodrome, it later became known as the Jimny.  

There are four generations of the Jimny, which is still in production today. A second generation debuted in 1981, featuring larger 550cc and 660cc engines. The third-generation Jimny debuted in 1998 and was in production until 2018, when the fourth and current generation launched. Each version of the Jimny was larger and more powerful than its predecessor, but all retained the original vehicle’s plucky “can-do” spirit.

Suzuki began exporting the Jimny to Asia, Australia, and Europe in 1981, and by 1985 it had landed in the U.S. as the Samurai. Over the years, it went by many names, including the Suzuki SJ410/413, Samurai, Sierra, Chevrolet Samurai, Holden Drover, and Maruti Gypsy. 

Where did the Jimny name come from? 

A blue Suzuki Jimny off-road SUV model on display with make and model nameplate front badging
Suzuki Jimny badging | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For years, Suzuki officially referred to the Jimny by its LJ designation, much like Toyota did with its FJ Land Cruiser. Eventually, people started referring to the LJ as the Jimny. No one is exactly sure how or where the name originated, including Suzuki. However, according to Cars Guide, there are three main theories about its origin and meaning:  

  1. The Jimny is a mispronunciation of Jimmy or Gemini. 

It sounds reasonable, but the problem is that Jimmy is easier to say than Jimny. It’s more likely Jimny is short for Gemini, which is at least phonetically close. Suzuki also produced the Sidekick, so the idea it wanted to call the little SUV a Gemini or twin is plausible.   

  1. It’s a combination of ‘Jeep’ and ‘Mini.’

The Suzuki LJ was designed as a smaller, lighter version of the Willys Jeep. When it first came out, the Austin Mini was a popular car in many parts of the world. So, it’s easy to think that people referred to it as a mini Jeep or a Jeep mini, which became Jimny at some point. 

  1. Jimny is based on Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. 

Like Pinocchio wished to be a real boy, Suzuki may have wished for a name for their small Jeep and was inspired by Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s friend and conscience. Jiminy Cricket was a small, friendly character and may have matched the image Suzuki wanted to portray with its little SUV. This theory most closely matches the spelling, which is off by one letter. Additionally, depending on what part of the world you live in, Jiminy can be pronounced “jim-min-ee” or “jim-nee.” 

Suzuki still makes the Jimny for other parts of the world

Regardless of how you pronounce Suzuki Jimny or if you refer to the light Jeep as a Samurai, Sierra, or Gypsy, it is perhaps Suzuki’s most iconic vehicle. It’s still in production, and you can buy it in many parts of the world, except for the U.S., where it left after a rollover safety debacle. Whether you think of it as your twin, cricket friend, or Jeep mini, it makes a dependable companion always up for an adventure.

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