Jeep is one of the most famous automotive brands in the world. And yet, ironically, the origin of its name is a still well-guarded secret. No one really knows how Jeep got its name. There hasn’t been any official statement, however, there are several interesting theories.
Some say military; some say Popeye; some say GP; but the truth remains shrouded in mystery. So let’s dive into some of the most likely theories behind the origin of the Jeep name.
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GP: General Purpose
Some theories are based on the pronunciation of two letters – G and P.
When the U.S. tapped several automakers to make an all-purpose military vehicle during World War 2, Ford’s GP-W was mass-produced based on the original Willy’s Overland design.
The GP is believed to have stood for “General Purpose” or “Government Personel”.
The name Jeep came about when Willy’s Overland was purchased and renamed Kaiser-Jeep Corp in 1963. The name Jeep is simply believed to be a pronunciation of the acronym GP.
Say ‘GP’ out loud a few times and you’ll see the connection.
Whatever the true origin of the Jeep name, it definitely sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
Eugene the Jeep
The next theory is a little bit more out there. It stems from the classic cartoon character Popeye (the Sailor Man). Popeye has a trusted pet named Eugene the Jeep during World War II.
Now, how do we get from a pet to name a car?
The theory is that many soldiers used comic books to ease their minds during the difficult battles of World War II. Eugene the Jeep had special powers that allowed him to teleport anywhere and everywhere, and he was able to walk on ceilings and walls.
The name Jeep is believed to be a reference to Eugene the Jeep, since the military vehicle was intended to have similar characteristics to Eugene — it was made to trek through terrain and go places where no other vehicles could.
Now, this might be a bit far off. But, keep in mind that the Jeep name became popularized during the same period that Eugene the Jeep was featured in Popeye, and we know how pop culture tends to find its way into everyday vocabulary. So this might be a feasible theory.
This is one of the most plausible theories out there. Starting as early as World War I, untested vehicles were referred to as jeeps. This nickname was also used for new cadets joining the forces. And the term didn’t disappear with the end of the war.
Quite on the contrary, it also kept being used in the military during World War II. One of the leading engineers working in the original Willys-Overland company, which would later become the Jeep company we know today, was Irving “Red” Hausmann. Hausmann used this nickname when testing the first Willys MB (the original ‘Jeep’) back in 1941. He stated that he had picked it up from soldier’s slang.
Another fascinating fact is that the press even used the term Jeep the same year that Willy’s MB was released. How? After U.S. Senator James Meade decided to go up the Capitol stairs with an untested vehicle, Hausmann referred to the vehicle as a Jeep when answering questions from the press. This led to newspaper headlines reading: “Jeep Creeps Up Capitol Steps.”
The term Jeep was later trademarked in 1943. However, full permission to use the trademark was granted in 1950.
Some say that Jeep is actually an acronym for “Just Enough Essential Parts.”
The concept of a Jeep is a heavy-duty, reliable vehicle that functions well with its bare bones, so it makes sense.
Many in the Jeep community have supported this theory for quite a long time, but our gut feeling is that this acronym was created by fans of the brand after the name already existed.
Whether this acronym theory is true or not, it does reflect the spirit behind Jeep’s vehicles.
So How Did Jeep Get Its Name?
Even though nobody knows for sure, all of the above theories are convincing. Some sound more plausible than others, and perhaps the truth is that a combination of the theories above contributed to its name.
No matter where the name Jeep comes from, it doesn’t change the fact that this rugged machine is truly an off-road adventurer’s dream.