Why Are United States Marines Called Jarheads?

by Contributing Writer

There several common nicknames for marines -- leathernecks, devil dogs and jarheads. While all may prove controversial, they are affectionate at the same time, and jarhead is one of the most popular.

History

There is evidence that U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine sailors began referring to marines as jarheads during World War II. Before that, they were known mostly as leathernecks and devil dogs. The term has since stuck and made it to popular usage.

Identification

The term jarhead stems from the Marine Corps' dress blue uniform, which features a stiff collar and a flat-topped hat. Both of these items may have led to the jar comparison because of the lack of head mobility marines exhibit while in dress blues.

Effects

If this uniform theory is true, the jarhead name comes from the same logic that named marines "leathernecks" -- a nickname that also refers to their stiff collar and demeanor.

Theories/Speculation

There are other origin stories related to the jarhead name -- one is that it's a corruption of "gyrene," a very old moniker for marines. Others yet claim it may be an attempt at insulting marines -- sailors were implying their heads were like empty jars.

Time Frame

A related piece of slang is "jughead," a name for pack mules that were a mainstay of logistics for the Marine Corps up until World War I. Marines have always taken great pride in being stubborn -- like mules.

Famous Ties

Several books and movies have been released with jarhead in their title, most famously the 2005 Sam Mendes movie Jarhead starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Resources

Photo Credits

  • Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images