List of nicknames for Chicago

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This article lists nicknames for the city of Chicago, Illinois.

Major nicknames[edit]

This newspaper article was published by the Cleveland Gazette in 1885
  • "Second City" - This was a derogatory nickname for the city used in a 1950s New Yorker article by A. J. Liebling; the phrase was later appropriated by a Chicago comedy troupe.[1] It is also used to describe Chicago after the The Great Chicago Fire, in which a second city was built on top of the ashes of the first one. Although this usage has no source and may be recent revisionism of the original derogatory nickname.
  • Chicagoland - A term for the city together with its surrounding suburbs. Sometimes the term encompasses the city and the nine counties around it.
  • "City of Broad Shoulders" or "City of the Big Shoulders" - From Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem, "Chicago":

"Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation's freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the big shoulders."

Minor nicknames[edit]

  • "Beirut by the Lake" - From a Wall Street Journal article during the Council Wars of the 1980s.
  • "City by the Lake" - Used as early as the 1890s.[2]
  • "City in a Garden" - English translation of the Latin motto on the city seal: "Urbs in Horto"
  • "Heart of America" - Chicago is one of the largest transportation centers in America and its location is near the center of the United States.
  • "Paris on the Prairie" - From the 1909 plan for the City of Chicago created by Daniel Burnham.
  • "The Big Onion" - An homage to the original Native American name for the area (shikaakwa, which means "wild onion" in the Miami-Illinois language), in parallel with a popular New York nickname, "The Big Apple"
  • "The Black City" - a reference to the pre-1893 World's Fair Chicago (which site was called "The White City"); the phrase was prominently used in such media as The Devil in the White City
  • "The Chi" (pronounced "shy")- Short for the word 'Chicago'
  • "The Chill or Chi Ill" - Also used by rap musicians from the area (Chill as in Chicago Illinois)
  • "The Great State of Chicago" - Used ironically (by Chicagoans) and pejoratively (by the rest of Illinois). A reference to the great political, cultural, social and ideological divide between the metropolis that is Chicago and the rest of the mostly agricultural State of Illinois.
  • "The Jewel of the Midwest" - Often used to describe Chicago and its various tourist destinations.
  • "The Third Coast" - As a reference to its long Lake Michigan shoreline. In that vein, it is used to describe the city's draw on people relocating to Chicago. It is a play on the traditional idea that people are drawn from land locked states to coastal states.
  • "Chi-raq" - Due to extreme gang activity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maudelyne Ihejirika (December 18, 1989). "First-rate reunion for Second City". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  2. ^ Seeger, Eugen. "Chicago, the Wonder City" (p. 384) G. Gregory Printing Company, 1893 - Chicago
  3. ^ Levy, John M. (2009) Contemporary Urban Planning.
  4. ^