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
  • "The Windy City" – Perhaps the best-known nickname for Chicago. There are several different theories on the origin of the nickname.[specify]
  • "Second City" – This was a derogatory nickname for the city used in a 1950s New Yorker article by A. J. Liebling; possibly alluding to its informal rivalry with New York City in its skyscraper building boom of the late 19th century and early 20th century. The phrase was later appropriated by a Chicago comedy troupe.[1]
  • Chicagoland – A term for the city together with its surrounding suburbs. Sometimes the term encompasses the city and the nine counties around it.

"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.
  • "The Cogs" - A play on words used to describe its emphasis on heavy industry and manufacturing.
  • "Chi-raq" – Due to intense gang activity and the perceived worsening of shooting incidents, blamed in part on the demolition of inner-city housing projects. Initially used in pop-culture and music, Chiraq is also the title of Spike Lee's upcoming film about black-on-black violence in the city. Chicago politicians object to the title and have requested Lee rename the film.[5]

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. ^
  5. ^ Moore, Natalie. "Troubled Chicago Neighborhood Wary Of Spike Lee's 'Chiraq'". NPR. NPR. Retrieved 30 April 2015.