Bonnet vs. Hood

It’s no surprise the part of the car covering the delicate mechanicals from the elements is named after headwear – and the split between the US version (hood) and the British one (bonnet) shows more similarity in thought than it does difference in name.

The British ‘bonnet’ of course comes from the dainty headwear – preferred by women – in the early days of automotive design. Choosing a mainly feminine article fits with the European notion that all objects have a gender, indeed the French ‘La voiture’ shows why British car lovers often refer to their beloved motors as ‘she’ and ‘her’.

Does your engine live under a bonnet or a hood?

Over in the States the same idea was adopted, but a smaller influence from European gender-assignment to objects meant a much more neutral term was chosen. ‘Hood’ fit the bill – enveloping the engine and ancillaries nicely and more in keeping with a ‘hood’ on an outfit, rather than merely a cap or similar.

The terms are still around today – although the debate about whether mid- and rear-engined vehicles have their bonnets and hoods at the front or back can still stir a debate at the local pub. Or bar.