Although the Jeep name has become a modern-day symbol for ingenuity, ambition, and adventure, the origins of its famous name remain unknown even 79 years after the first Jeep made its debut on the battlefields of World War II. Nowadays, it has become one of the hottest debate topics among Jeep enthusiasts.
We’re excited to share these theories with you today, and we’ll let you decide which story fits the bill best!
Perhaps the most entertaining theory of them all is that of Eugene the Jeep. Some Jeep historians believe that the mighty WWII military vehicle was named after a comedic cartoon! Eugene was an enigmatic creature that first appeared in E.C. Segar’s Thimble Theatre comics (now simply referred to as Popeye) in 1936. It possessed strange supernatural abilities that allowed him to teleport from one place to another, and “Jeep” was the only word it ever spoke.
According to the lore, Army soldiers were quite fond of the comics and appropriated Eugene’s name for their military vehicles because they believed the Jeep could go anywhere and do anything (as their slogan famously dictates), much like Eugene the Jeep.
Jeep from GP
When Ford started building prototype jeeps for the U.S. Army, they designated that model with the initials “GP,” which some assumed to mean “general purpose.” We know now that GP denotes government property (G) and the 80-inch wheelbase designation (P). Eventually, these two syllables could have been slurred into the sound of — Jeep.
This theory is based on another famous WWII military combat and reconnaissance vehicle, the Humvee, which got its name in a similar manner. The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) was a mouthful and its abbreviation unpronounceable, so Army soldiers colloquially referred to it as Humvee. Jeep historians believe the Jeep name had the same origin.
The New Recruit
The final theory is that Jeep was military slang for new recruits. The etymology for the word Jeep actually dates back to 1914, before Willys MB was even a concept. World War I soldiers assigned the word Jeep to untested vehicles and new Army recruits. The name lived on past the Great War, and was used by a Willys engineer, Irving “Red” Hausmann, when test driving the prototypes. In fact, the first documentation of using Jeep to refer to Willys MB vehicles can be found in The Washington Daily News from June 1941, when a photo showcasing Red Hausmann driving a Jeep in front of the Capitol steps was captioned “Jeep Creeps Up Capitol Steps.”
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