List of nicknames for Chicago

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

Major Nicknames

  • "The Windy City" — It is often said—erroneously—that this nickname was first used by Charles Anderson Dana, editor of the New York Sun, in 1890 in reference to the city's dirty streets for the World's Columbian Exposition. Barry Pop and others, however, have found numerous earlier references to the "Windy City." Earlier attestations are found in the Cleveland Gazette dated September 19, 1885 and the Cincinnati Enquirer dated February 12, 1877 (pg. 5, col. 2); undoubtedly other antedatings will emerge. Undoubtedly, the name "Windy City" is in reference to the false promises brought forth by Chicago area politicians during the early 19th Century. Some continue to believe that the name may indicate the summer breezes as is described at Doctor's Weather History, but cleary there is no evidence to support this theory. 19th-century citations reveal that the nickname arose in connection with (1) the longwindedness of politicians, both residents and those visiting for political conventions; and (2) the city's many boosters who commended the western metropolis to the world's attention. (The complete article on the nickname from the University of Chicago Press's Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004) is available here) Further explanation of the various origins can be found at Windy City, Origin of Name (Chicago). In Chicago, this nickname has become a signifier for businesses and organizations that are gay-owned or gay-friendly—for example, the Windy City Times is one of the city's two main gay community newspapers, and the Windy City Cycling Club draws most of its members from the gay community.
  • "Second City" — Second City is used in reference to the Great Chicago fire, and how the second city was built upon the first city. A widely believed misconception is in reference to Chicago's size as the second largest city in the United States Although recently LA has surpassed Chicago in size, the nickname is still sometimes used. However, the term originated as a result of The Great Chicago fire and the rebuilding of the city, greatly surpassing what it had been before the fire, thus the term originated, The Second City. The improvisational comedy troupe The Second City uses the nickname ironically in the same sense as the article.
  • "Chi-Town" or "Chitown" — Pronunciation of this nickname can vary from /ˈtʃɑɪ.tɑʊn/ to /ˈʃɑɪ.tɑʊn/ (from chai-town to shai-town). (An ironic homophone to "shy-town".)
  • Chicagoland — A term for the city together with its surrounding suburbs. Correctly, the term encompasses the city and the nine counties around it; however, it is often used to mean only the suburbs or in redundant phrases like "greater Chicagoland area." Largely used by TV announcers and headline writers, it is making inroads into the common speech.

Some nicknames are included in Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem "Chicago":

Minor Nicknames

  • "the Windy City" first name thought about the weather conditions in Chicago
  • "The White City" - Used during the time of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
  • "Dat Killa Chi!" - Used by many Chicago Gangs
  • "The/Da Chi", or "The 'Go" - Used by various rap musicians from the area, such as Kanye West and R. Kelly. (pronounced "duh shy" much like "Chi-town.")
  • "The Chill or Chi Ill" - Also used by rap musicians from the area (Chill as in Chicago Illinois).
  • "City by the Lake" - Used in the Smashing Pumpkins' song "Tonight, Tonight."
  • "City of the Big Shoulders" - From "Chicago," a poem by Carl Sandburg.
  • "City of Broad Shoulders" - A popular variant of "City of the Big Shoulders"
  • "City of the Century."
  • "City of the moon" - Used in the Drilldown Wallups' song "Chicago, Chic-a-go-go."
  • "City on the Make" - From "Chicago, City on the Make" (1951), a prose poem by Nelson Algren.
  • "The City That Works" - According to former Mayor Richard J. Daley.
  • "The Big Onion" - An homage to the original Native name for the area (which meant "onion"), in parallel with a popular New York nickname, "The Big Apple"
  • "City in a Garden" - After the motto on the seal "Urbs in Horto."
  • "Hog-Butcher to the World" - From "Chicago."
  • "Beirut by the Lake" - From a Wall Street Journal article during the Council Wars of the 1980s
  • "New York Done Right" - Denoting that Chicago is all the good things about New York, without any of the bad things.
  • "Illville" - Chicago is the largest metropolis in Illinois.
  • "I Will" City - From the "I Will" Symbol.
  • Chi-tizzle - Suburb phrase
  • "My Kind of Town" - According to the song "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)" (music by Jimmy Van Heusen, words by Sammy Cahn, 1964) popularized by Frank Sinatra. (Originally from the film, Robin and the Seven Hoods, about a fictional popular Chicago gangster).
  • "Paris on the Prairie" - From the 1909 plan for the City of Chicago created by Daniel Burnham.
  • "Sweet Home" - From the Robert Johnson song Sweet Home Chicago.
  • "Heart of America" - Chicago is one of the largest transportation centers in America and its location near the center of the United States.
  • "That Toddling Town" - According to the lyrics of the song "Chicago" (music and words by Fred Fisher, 1922) also popularized by Frank Sinatra (as well as Tony Bennett).
  • "Ayreton" - Quasi-medieval name used by local members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
  • "Shot-Town" - People located on the southern part of Chicago call it Shot-Town because of the high numbers of homicides caused by gun shots and firearms.
  • "The Alley Capital of America" - Chicago city blocks incorporate narrow alleys between the buildings


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