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How the Tank Got Its Name

(Photo: Mark Holloway)

During World War I, warring nations developed large, heavily armored, self-propelled vehicles that could support infantry attacks. They called these war machines "tanks." Why?

It was the British who came up with the name. The engineers wanted the vehicles to remain a secret from the Germans, so they told workers assembing them that these machines they were building would be used to carry water onto the battlefield. They were mobile water tanks. The History Channel (auto-start video) explains:

To keep the project secret from enemies, production workers were reportedly told the vehicles they were building would be used to carry water on the battlefield (alternate theories suggest the shells of the new vehicles resembled water tanks). Either way, the new vehicles were shipped in crates labeled “tank” and the name stuck.


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