How the Glovebox Got Its Name

Maybe you have put gloves in your glovebox or glove compartment, but I can’t say with any amount of certainty that I know anyone that has. In fact, I keep just about everything except gloves in my glovebox. From pens to flashlights to a hoard of napkins I’ve collected from various fast food restaurants — you can judge me, I judge myself, too — I would have opted to call this nifty storage compartment just about anything else. So I’ve always wondered…what happened in automotive history to give it the name glovebox?

The answer seems obvious

I never really spent much time looking for an answer to this question. In fact, I just kind of assumed it got its name because, at some point in time, people put their gloves in there. That seemed like a practical and easy way to name this small compartment. As I got older, I wasn’t just satisfied with the assumption anymore, and I came to wonder if there was any reason it was called a glovebox at all, or if it was just another meaningless name for a car part.

Glove compartment | Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

How the glovebox got its name

As you could imagine — and not to be a total let down, the glovebox got its name because its primary purpose was to store gloves. Not just your usual winter snow gloves, though, and that was the interesting fact. While we consider driving gloves necessary for riding a motorcycle, they were once common for use in cars. The intention of driving gloves was to keep the driver’s hands warm while driving so that they didn’t become cold and numb. It’s a simple, yet somehow disappointing, answer.

A Volkswagen official demonstrates a glovebox designed to keep items cool | SAM PANTHAKY/AFP

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Modern-day uses

You probably aren’t rushing out to buy a new pair of gloves to store in your glovebox. In modern times, there are actually a lot more uses for this handy storage compartment. Companies like Mercedes-Benz use it to store the scent for their air-balance package, which pumps the scent of your choice into the cabin straight through the AC. Other companies store additional charging ports like USB ports. As drivers, we use it to store napkins, registration paperwork, and really, any number of things that we can shove into it.

Mercedes-Benz Air-Balance Package | Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz Air-Balance Package | Mercedes-Benz

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While you probably don’t use your glovebox to store driving gloves — or own driving gloves — anymore, the name still stuck. Depending on what region you live in, there may be other names for this convenient little cubby. Regardless of modern use, the name actually did come from one of the compartments uses over the years, even if that may not have been what it was originally designed for.