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Does the Word “Jeep” Mean Anything?

Updated Jul 10, 2020
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If you or anyone you know has ever owned a Jeep, you've probably heard the expression, "It's a Jeep thing. You wouldn't understand." That cryptic statement is meant to show community spirit among Jeep owners and devotion to a popular brand.

But what most Jeep drivers probably don't know is that if you had said such a thing 100 years ago, you would have been in for some embarrassment.

Long before the sport utility vehicles gained fame and such an ardent following, the word "jeep" was a term used by U.S. Army soldiers to refer to anything unimportant or even ridiculous. During World War I, mechanics used the term "jeep" to identify any untested vehicle. "Jeep" could also refer to a new, uninitiated recruit.

After that, the meaning of "jeep" jumped around quite a bit. It was notably used as the name of a Popeye character ("Eugene the Jeep"), and the term also appeared on the label of an electric logging device and a bomber built by Boeing.

The word "jeep" finally found its permanent definition during World War II, when the Army started producing the much-loved light military 4x4. As of 2020, Jeep remains a popular brand of sport utility vehicles manufactured by Fiat Chrysler, with headquarters in Toledo, Ohio.

Just the Jeep facts:

  • Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that the word "jeep" originated as a slurred form of the Army abbreviation GP, for "general purpose."

  • Jeeps got their iconic slotted grills from Ford, beginning with a 13-slot version in the Pilot Model GP-No.1 “Pygmy."

  • The first Jeep to land on Guadalcanal in World War II received a Purple Heart after its windshield was struck by bullets.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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