Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi as Yamauchi Nintendo (山内任天堂) in 1889 and initially manufactured hanafuda ('flower cards'), Japanese playing cards in Kyoto. In 'The History of Nintendo' by Florent Gorges his theory is the name Nintendo (任天堂) means:
- 任 nin - 'let someone do'
- 天 ten - short for tengu (playing cards like hanafuda)
- 堂 do - 'shrine' or 'sanctuary' (often used by Japanese companies to add prestige to their name).
Despite the various theories even Hiroshi Yamauchi, the great-grandson of the company’s founder, said he does not know the true meaning of the company’s name.
Sources: Nintendo website | The History of Nintendo by Florent Gorges.