Car News:  Oversteer

The Origin of the Term "Souped Up" Isn't What You Think

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger
$24,490
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger
$24,297
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2017 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
New 2017 Dodge Challenger
MSRP $57,885
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2017 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
New 2017 Dodge Challenger
MSRP $62,960
RELATED READING
See all Dodge Challenger articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Will Kinton May 2017

When you hear of a car that has been tuned or modified to produce additional horsepower, you'll often hear it referred to as "souped up." This term goes hand-in-hand with hot rodding, so surely its origins must have to do with the early car-modding scene -- right?

I initially thought it must have to do with the adding of a supercharger, since that is a common way of getting more power out of an engine -- especially before turbocharging became accessible. "Supercharger" is a pretty long word, so naturally people would start shortening it, eventually getting to the term "souped up," of course. It made sense to me, at least.

Except I was completely wrong.

I looked into the origin of "souped up," and it turns out that the origin of the term has nothing to do with the automobile and largely predates hot-rod culture, with it first popping up in the dictionary back in 1911 in reference to a "narcotic injected into horses to make them run faster." In that sense, "soup" was slang for the narcotic involved -- you gave the horse "soup," and thus it was said to be "souped up." Of course, its slang usage probably was spinning around the American lexicon before it was recorded by Webster.

So "souped up" isn't originally an automotive term, but rather an equestrian one. It makes sense, though: People always try to find a way to get a leg up in competitions, whether their vehicle has one horsepower or many. As the horse was supplanted by the car, the term was adapted to the automotive scene, now referring to tinkering with fuel and air mixture to extract the most out of the engine. This definition could be found in the dictionary by 1921, just before for the supercharger gained popularity in auto racing during the pre-war era. The use of superchargers then made the term become pretty muddied, and many people, such as myself, began to conflate the two.

Interesting, right? Now you can keep that in the back of your mind for your next pub trivia moment of glory.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
This Fake Porsche 911 Turbo Badge Is Really Embarrassing
Which Used Land Rover For $70,000? Range Rover vs. Defender
The ACMAT ALTV Is the Strangest Nissan Frontier You'll Ever See

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger
$24,490
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T
Used 2017 Dodge Challenger
$24,297
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2017 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
New 2017 Dodge Challenger
MSRP $57,885
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2017 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack
New 2017 Dodge Challenger
MSRP $62,960
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Origin of the Term "Souped Up" Isn't What You Think - Autotrader