The origin of the name ....................................................... Japanese
Scientific name ; Acer (this name is Latin in origin)
In "Maples of the World" (document No.4 ) we can see the next description.
" The word acer derives from the Proto-Indo-European word ac, meaning "sharp, to be sharp, to sharpen" and seems to represent the sound of sharpness. The word's association with the genus Acer possibly comes from the pointed leaves associated with maples, a feature that is reflected also in the German synonym Spitzblatt."
Besides, in another book, "acer" means "to split or to be split", from the shape of the leaves, furthermore, "acer" derives from "acris", meaning "hard" because of the hardness of maple wood.
Those words are used such as "maple" in English, "Ahorn" in German and "erable" in French.
is usually used for maples, but in this homepage I'll use the names "momiji" or "kaede"; both have the same meaning botanically.
Kaede and Momiji
It is said that the name "kaede" derives from "kaerude" in "Manyoshu". You can see that the shape of the leaves is similar to that of a "frog's hand". The Japanese word for "frog" is pronounced "kaeru" and word for "hand" is pronounced "te" or "de".
The name "momiji" is said to be derived from "momizu". In old Japan "momizu" meant to change color, that is, to turn red or yellow. As you know trees of the maple family turn most brilliant red or yellow among all trees, and they were supposed to be representative of trees changing color in autumn, so they seem to have become called "momiji".
As mentioned above, "kaede" is not distinguished from "momiji" botanically. But in the Bonsai world the objects are the cultivars, namely, the cultivated ones, and "kaede" and "momiji" are distinguished there. The word of "momiji" seems to be used for maples such as what we call Japanese maples containing Acer palmatum, Acer matsumurae, Acer amoenum and their cultivars . And the word of "kaede" is used for maples from these species such as mainly trident maple, Acer buergerianum.
In Japan 2 kinds of sweetgums are well known, the Chinese and the American ones. The leaves of the Chinese sweetgums are split into 3 lobes, and those of the American, which we call "momiji-ba-fu", into 5 lobes. They also change color beautifully in autumn. But the leaf is alternative with, not opposite to, the adjacent leaf, and the seeds, made of a type of the aggregate fruits, are round like a ball, different from those of maples.
Sweetgum is not a member of the Maple family but a member of the Witch-hazel family. American sweetgums can be frequently seen as roadside trees in Japan. As the photo below shows they are apt to be mistaken for maples, judging from only the shape of a leaf.