Jeeps are some of the most popular cars around. So popular, in fact, that jeep drivers have their own “jeep wave” they like to exchange when passing one another on the road. Despite being so popular, the origins of the word jeep are quite a mystery. The moniker stuck after appearing in The Washington Daily News in 1941 when journalist Katharine Hillyer used it in an article title after a public showcasing of the vehicle. This was in response to hearing GIs use it who’d been working on the vehicle. That being said, it’s unclear why they chose that term.
Many years later, there are some very interesting theories regarding those origins. Today, we’ll break down two of the most commonly discussed possible answers to this decades-old question: How did the jeep get its name?
From World War I
Anyone who knows the story of the jeep knows that this vehicle was integral to troop transportation during World War II under the name the “Willys MB.” However, this theory suggests that the moniker jeep, which didn’t become an official brand name until 1950, stems from a World War I term.
During WWI, “jeep” was used to describe untested vehicles as well as new recruits. This term did not disappear when WWI came to a close. In fact, Willys engineer Irving “Red” Hausmann began using the term during test drives of the Willys MB. Apparently, similar to Hillyer’s article title, Hausmann used this term in response to hearing other soldiers say it while testing the vehicle.
From a Cartoon
E. C. Segar is the famous cartoonist behind Popeye and the Thimble Theatre comic strip in which the sailor became so popular. In 1936, Segar chose to create a cat/dog hybrid pet, with the ability to teleport, who would be a sidekick to Popeye: Eugene the jeep. The word jeep was both its species and the only word it would say, similar to creatures from Pokémon. Theories claim that soldiers in WWII began using this name for the Willys MB because they were fans of Popeye. It might sound like a reach, but given Eugene’s ability to go anywhere, the moniker jeep was pretty fitting for this versatile reconnaissance vehicle.
More theories swirl aroundabout how the jeep got its name, but these two are often seen as the most popular of the bunch. Despite the mysterious origins of its name, the jeep has been making an impact all over the world for many, many years—from the battlefields of WWI to the everyday residential streets of the United States. Hopefully, next time you see a jeep on the road, you’ll think about it as more than just a car, thanks to its surprising history.