Where Did the Term ‘Trunk’ Come From?

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on January 20th, 2013

Depending on which part of the world you live, you might call the rear compartment of a car the “trunk”, “boot” or even a “dickie”. But do you know where these terms come from? Let’s take a closer look.


North Americans use the term “trunk” because up until the 1930’s most drivers used to strap travel chests, called trunks, to the backs of their cars. Of course, once automakers started designing cars with built-in rear compartments, there were no longer any reasons to travel with trunks. The name, however, stuck.


Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the rear compartment of a car is commonly referred to as the “boot”. While there’s some debate over where the name comes from, the most common explanation is that it is derived from the term “boot locker”.

Like a chest, a “boot locker” was a large boxy compartment where drivers of horse-drawn carriages stored their boots and other belongings. It also doubled as a coachman’s bench seat.

By the time cars replaced carriages, the term had already been shortened to “boot” and become synonymous with travel compartments. Thus, like “trunk”, the name also stuck.


In South Asia, especially those countries once ruled by the British Empire, the rear compartment of a car is called a “dickie” – which, you may recognize, is the same term that Brits use for “rumble seats”. There’s good reason for that.

Before cars were designed with rear compartments, South Asians would stack luggage atop their vehicles’ seldom-used “dickie” seats. Thus, the rear deck of cars came to take on a new purpose.

Automakers eventually stopped manufacturing cars with “dickie” seats – leaving, in their place, large storage compartments which South Asians continue to call “dickies”.

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Well, there you have it. The next time a customer comes to your auto upholstery shop asking you to trim his “trunk”, “boot” or “dickie”, you can wow (or possibly even bore) him with your knowledge.

[Photo cred: 1968 Camaro, Interiors by Shannon]

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