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The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic SUVs–and nameplates–in history. But how did this 4WD SUV get its recognizable name? “Jeep Wrangler” is actually a combination of WWII slang, corporate branding, and an uncommon military acronym.

What do the letters JEEP stand for?

An automaker named Willys-Overland built thousands of 4×4 “Quads” for WWII. The army classified them as 1/4-ton General Purpose (GP) vehicles, and the soldiers nicknamed the GPs “Jeeps.”

A tan Civilian Jeep CJ-2A built by Willys-Overland in 1945, parked on a dirt road for a promo photo.
1945 Jeep Willys CJ-2A | Stellantis

After the war, Willys-Overland trademarked “Jeep” because it rebadged its Quad as the Civilian Jeep or “CJ.” Early CJs actually had a PTO to run farm implements and were advertised as a tractor alternative capable of taking the entire family into town. Each subsequent CJ generation was increasingly road-worthy, though they retained the original’s off-road capabilities.

Willys-Overland, through several mergers, kept building the CJ. In addition, it tried to build on the 4×4 SUV’s success with variations such as the Jeepster, Gladiator, and Wagoneer.

What did the Jeep Wrangler get its name?

Wrangler was simply a name Jeep’s corporate leadership agreed on. The brand had resolved to give its redesigned eighth-generation CJ its very own nameplate for the 1987 model year.

A red Jeep Wrangler YJ parked on the beach, a blue ocean visible in the background.
Jeep Wrangler | a-n-v-e-s-h via Unsplash

As rising gas prices cut into CJ sales, the automaker designed the unibody Cherokee. This SUV was such a hit that the company knew it needed to turn Jeep into a brand with a diverse portfolio.

In response, Jeep designed a new, Cherokee-like CJ, which it renamed the Wrangler. This allowed the word Jeep to be used exclusively for the brand instead of being tied to any one model–according to Car and Driver.

What does the Wrangler nameplate mean?

A Wrangler is a person who rounds up or herds livestock. It’s an older and more general word for a profession that includes cowboys. When Jeep renamed its flagship 4×4, a Western-inspired jean company was already named Wrangler, and Goodyear’s off-road tires were already called Wranglers.

A four-door Jeep Wrangler JK parked by the side of a mountain road, the sun setting behind a ridgeline in the backgorund.
Jeep Wrangler JK | Matthias Koch via Unsplash

Jeep, and its parent company, the Chrysler Corporation, were able to strike a deal with Goodyear for use of the name–wrapping its new Wrangler in Wrangler tires from the factory. But coming to an agreement with Wrangler jeans was a bit more difficult.

Chrysler Corporation and Wrangler Jeans were locked in a lawsuit for several years. Eventually, Wrangler Jeans actually changed ownership. The company’s new leaders may have realized that all the advertising Chrysler was doing for the rugged Wrangler SUV helped sales of the jeans, because it dropped all charges.

Next, find out the cheapest model years of used Jeep Wranglers or learn more about the Jeep Wrangler in the video below:


What Is a 4 Door Jeep Wrangler Called?