Skip to main content

Often, automotive marques get their monikers from family names or a hyphenation thereof. For instance, “Dodge” gets its name from the Dodge brothers, John Francis and Horace Dodge. Sometimes, however, a name comes from an unlikely source, like in the case of Jeep. One of the popular explanations for the Jeep name (because there are many) comes from soldiers slurring the name out of the operational acronym for the Willys MB and Ford GPW.

The Jeep name may have originated from soldiers smashing the letters “GP” together

During the Second World War, servicemembers took the first general purpose (GP) “Jeeps” into combat. The design, the result of a government contract with Willys-Overland Motors, amounted to well over half a million vehicles between the Willys MB, Ford GPW (General Purpose Willys), and their variants. 

However, rather than simply refer to them as Willys or G-Ps, American servicemembers resorted to calling them “Jeeps.” One of the most popular (and straightforward) explanations for the name was the slurred joining of the “G” and “P” into one sound: “Jeep.” It’s a simple explanation for a historic car name that would evolve into one of the most popular off-road brands ever. 

A reenactor with a Willys MB Jeep in a parade.
A WWII reenactment build of a Willys MB Jeep next to a Humvee | felixmizioznikov via iStock

Of course, there are other explanations. Another popular origin story for the Jeep name rests in the popular cartoon character “Popeye.” Specifically, the Popeye universe included a magical dog-like creature by the name of “Eugene the Jeep.” Some die-hard fans assert that Eugene the Jeep is the source of the brand’s name.  

It’s not the first time that servicemembers assigned a phonetic pronunciation to a vehicle with an acronym

Even today, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) is still a workhorse for the United States Military. However, no one expected marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors to blurt out the acronym or its meaning. Instead, servicemembers refer to the HMMWV and the “Humvee,” a single-breath interpretation of the off-roader’s acronym. 

The Humvee might remain in limited service until the mid-century. However, the military is replacing the Humvee in certain operational capacities with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). Servicemembers may have abbreviated the GP and HMMWV with Jeep and Humvee, respectively. But I wouldn’t expect anyone to popularize something like “Jlittvee.”