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Barreling up and down American highways since 1995, the Toyota Tacoma is remarkably nimble for a pickup truck. Naturally, many drivers assume that the model name refers to a city in Washington state. Actually, it does not. So, where does the Tacoma name come from?

Front angle view of gray 2023 Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup truck
2023 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

How the Toyota Tacoma got its name

According to Puyallup historical preservation officer Brandon Reynon, Tacoma is an indigenous word for a mountain that was renamed by a British explorer in the 18th century. This is the true source of the truck’s nameplate.

As Reynon told KIRO 7, tribal people in and around the Puget Sound area pronounce it “Taquoma” or “Tahoma” and that the name means ‘the mother of all waters.’

Reynon went on to explain that George Vancouver, the first non-native to set eyes on the imposing snow-capped peak, arbitrarily named a number of things without ever consulting the locals.

Vancouver dubbed the mountain that meant so much to the locals after his good friend, Royal Navy officer, Peter Rainier. Rainier, who ultimately attained the rank of Admiral, fought against the colonists in the American Revolutionary War, reveals Prabook.

A brief history of the Toyota Tacoma

Founded by Japanese entrepreneur Sakichi Toyoda in 1926 as a way to sell the automated looms he’d invented, Toyoda Industries Corporation did not manufacture vehicles until the company was a decade old.

In 1936, the company changed its name from Toyoda to Toyota. There are a number of theories to explain the alteration, including preferred Japanese pronunciation as well as the number of brush strokes required to write the kanji form of the word, says Opex Learning. ’36 also saw the Tokyo debut of the first Toyota truck, the Model G1.

Toyota continued to make a limited number of trucks, including the KB and KC, during World War II. Remarkably, Toyota was one of the few Japanese companies whose manufacturing facilities were spared in the conflict.

With the mid-’90s debut of the Tacoma, Toyota clearly exceeded public expectations for a compact truck. Driver assists such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, and daytime running lights made the Tacoma as popular as a passenger vehicle as it was as a cargo carrier. The rest is history.

The future of both Tacomas


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The Toyota Tacoma has earned its place on American roadways and isn’t going away anytime soon. But what about the source of the Tacoma’s name, you ask?

If Pacific Northwest tribes such as the Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Coast Salish, Muckleshoot, Yakama, and Suquamish have their way, the native name of the 14,311′ glacier-covered mountain will be restored.

There is precedent for this as a similar situation occurred in Alaska in 2015, when after a decades-long push by native peoples, the culturally significant Mount McKinley was re-named Denali.