What's the origin of the term GI Joe

Simple as that really.

What does GI mean, at a guess I’d say something Infantry.

I’ve searched Google but couldn’t get any real answers.

General Infantry, IIRC.

Acronymfinder says it stands for Government Issue.

Interestingly, dictionary.com says this:

It’s my understanding that during WWII that everything the Solider needed was issued by the Government. (If the government wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one!) Hence Government issue or GI. for example an officer on inspection asking if something was civilian or Government issue “Is that GI?”

The Joe part I think has to do with either Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe comic characters or with the children of Europe calling every Solider Joe. “Hey Joe got any candy?”


G.I. is “government issue”. “Joe” is American (?) slang for a bloke. Joe might have been a more common name decades ago than it is now. It’s where we got phrases such as “an average Joe” and “Hey Joe, whaddya know?” (“I just got back from a vaudeville show!”). So a “G.I. Joe” was a guy who was in the army – a “government-issued average American”.

And the toy G.I. Joe was named after a WWII movie called The Story of G.I. Joe. When the toy was invented in the 1960’s they wanted a name that would convey a sense of the average american soldier, and then someone remembered the movie about just that. BTW, most of the guys who designedthe toy were Korean War vets, and used their own memories to put together his initial uniform and gear.


The story,and GI Joe,was written by Ernie Pyle a famous W11 correspondent that traveled (and I think was killed) with an infantry company (ies?)

Google Ernie Pyle and you should come up with numerous sites and anecdotes.

GI,to me always stood for government issue,whle Gman was supposedly coined by one of the 30s most wanted characters in reference to Government man (Hoover’s cop squad).

The thirties,and perhaps earlier had quite a few one letter slang words,a G was a guy,H was heroin,etc.

A read thru Damon Runyon should net you quite a few of those.

As much of an Urban Legend as it sounds, the abbreviation G.I. was found as a "semiofficial army abbreviation of “galvanized iron,” used especially in inventories to describe iron cans, buckets, etc.; by 1917 it was also interpreted as an abbreviaton of “government issue,”… This from Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

The term G.I. to mean a soldier appers in print in 1939.

The term G.I. Joe to mean an enlisted man appears in print in 1935. The in 1942 as a cartoon by David Breger.

As a point of interest, G.I.Jane first appered in print in 1944, NYTimes, to mean a member of the WAC.