The first recorded use of Jap was in 1860 to refer to members of the Japanese embassy in the United States. An example of benign usage was the previous naming of Boondocks Road in Jefferson County, Texas, originally named "Jap Road" when it was built in 1905 to honor a popular local rice farmer from Japan.
Later popularized during World War II to describe those of Japanese descent, Jap was then commonly used in newspaper headlines to refer to the Japanese and Imperial Japan. "Jap" became a derogatory term during the war, more so than "Nip".Some in the United States Marine Corps also tried to combine the word "Japs" with "Apes" to create a new description, "Japes", for the Japanese. However, this new word never became popular. Veteran and author Paul Fussell explains the usefulness of the word during the war for creating effective propaganda by saying that "Japs" "was a brisk monosyllable handy for slogans like "Rap the Jap" or "Let's Blast the Jap Clean Off the Map".
In the United States and Canada, the term is now considered derogatory; Webster's Dictionary notes it is "usually disparaging". In the United Kingdom it is considered derogatory, and the Oxford dictionary defines it as offensive.
In 2003, the Japanese deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Yoshiyuki Motomurea, protested the North Korean ambassador's use of the term in retaliation for a Japanese diplomat's use of the term "North Korea" instead of the official name, "Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In Texas, under pressure from civil rights groups, Jefferson County commissioners in 2004 decided to drop the name "Jap Road" from a 4.3-mile road near the city of Beaumont. Also in adjacent Orange County, "Jap Lane" has also been targeted by civil rights groups. The road was originally named for the contributions of Kichimatsu Kishi and the farming colony he founded.
In Singapore and Hong Kong, the term is used freely as a contraction of the adjective "Japanese". The Australian news service Asia Pulse also uses the term In 1970, the Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada opened the "Jungle Jap" boutique in Paris.
In Japan itself, most Japanese are apathetic about the term, according to a 2004 study.