Chicago is one of the most impressive cities in the United States and one of the greatest landmarks thanks to its mouthwatering food, amazing music scene, as well as eye-catching architecture.
Thanks to all the unique features of the city, it’s no surprise that it also goes by many names, whether by the locals or foreigners, and that’s where this guide comes in handy!
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through a list of Chicago nicknames as well as the reason behind them.
Chicago has nicknames such as:
- The Windy City
- The Mud City
- The Great American City
- The Heart of America
- The Second City
1. The Windy City
Although Chicago has many nicknames, the “Windy City” is easily the most commonly used one.
The exact origin of the nickname isn’t clear, but the oldest record of the nickname being used was in 1876, describing the 4 significant tornadoes that hit the city.
In reality, however, Chicago isn’t particularly windy and many cities in America are far windier, as it comes in 12th place in terms of average wind speed.
Read Also: 10 Nicknames for Los Angeles
2. The Mud City
This nickname is one of the oldest surviving nicknames of the city.
The origin of the name comes from the original terrain of the city being large stretches of mud because the area was at the same level as the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, so it was constantly flooded with mud by the rain.
Read Also: 10 San Francisco Nicknames
3. The Great American City
This nickname was originally coined by Norman Mailer in his book “Miami and the Siege of Chicago”.
The moniker was later used by Robert J. Sampson to also describe Chicago in one of his recent books, and the nickname became associated with Chicago ever since.
Read Also: 8 Nicknames for Seattle
4. The Heart of America
This one is fairly based on the geographic location of the city. Chicago is where most transportation lines from all across the country meet, and since it’s the largest city in the region, it’s typically seen as the “heart of America”.
5. The City of Broad Shoulders
Also known as “City of the Big Shoulders”, the term is originally taken from a poem named “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg, which is used to describe the city’s hardworking and rather grim and stormy nature.
6. The Second City
Despite being an unfamiliar name, it’s still commonly used to this day. There are multiple theories that explain that name, but the most prominent one is that most of the original Chicago were destroyed in the 1871 Great Chicago fire.
As a result, the current Chicago city is considered a second city built on top of the old one.
7. The City by the Lake
This one is similar to many cities in America that overlook a popular natural landmark. The Lake in this situation here is Lake Michigan, which is one of the 5 great lakes in the United States.
8. The Jewel of the Midwest
This nickname was often used in promotional pamphlets to attract more visitors to the city. Today, Chicago is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations with the latest reports showing that over 30.7 million tourists visited the city in 2021.
This one is a wordplay on “Chicago Town” and is pronounced “Shy”, rather than “Chi”. The term is relatively old and has been used since the early 20th century as a short for Chicago.
In fact, some non-professional hockey teams in Chicago are also associated with that nickname, such as “Chi-Town Shamrocks” and Chi-Town Shooters.
Another wordplay that is also associated with Chicago is “Chi-beria”. This one is relatively new and has been used to describe the cold wave that hit Chicago in 2014, reaching temperatures similar to that of “Siberia”, hence the name.
11. The City that Works
As previously mentioned, Chicago is known for being one of the hardest working cities in America.
As a result, the slogan and nickname “The City that Works” was adopted in 1955 by the then Mayor of the city Richard J. Daley
12. The 312
A lot of cities in America use their area codes as a nickname, including Chicago. To this day, 312 is often used as a nickname for Chicago despite being overlaid by 872.
13. The Furry Capital of the World
Chicago is home to a large furry culture and annually hosts the “Midwest FurFest”, which is one of the largest furry conventions in the world.
As a result, the city is often dubbed “the furry capital of the world”. However, the Anthroconin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is currently the most popular one, so Chicago shouldn’t be keeping that nickname for long.
14. The Big Onion
Chicago and New York were fierce economical rivals during the 20th century, which is one of the driving forces behind that nickname, as it’s a wordplay on New York’s name “The Big Apple”.
15. Hog Butcher for the World
In addition to “the City of Broad Shoulders”, Carl Sandburg also coined the nickname “Hog Butcher for the World”, which relates to Chicago being one of the pioneers in the meatpacking industry.
16. Paris on the Prairie
This one is originally derived from Daniel Burnham’s “Plan for Chicago” in 1909. This plan included major changes to the city’s layout in a style that is similar to Paris.
As a result, many people used this term as well as “Paris of the Prairie” as a nickname for Chicago.
This nickname is also used for Saskatoon, Canada.It is a famous line in Canadian band The Tragically Hip’s hit song Wheat Kings. In this song, Paris on the Prairie refers to Saskatoon.
Unlike most of the previously mentioned nicknames, this one has some negative and controversial undertones.
Since Chicago used to have a relatively high crime rate, this wordplay was often used to compare Chicago with Iraq, but it’s mostly used to refer to dangerous neighborhoods rather than the entire city.
In 2015, a musical/drama movie of the same name depicted the social issues and violence in some parts of the city.
With that said, you now have a brief overview of the most prominent Chicago nicknames that were used to describe the city in the past as well as the present!
As you can see, there aren’t many American cities that have more nicknames than Illinois’ biggest city.
Jason Dempsey is the CEO and Co-Founder of Home City Living. After abandoning the corporate world in order to indulge his wanderlust, Jason founded Home City Living with his partner Rose to create the premier source of travel information and inside local knowledge on the web to help other would-be global explorers and seekers learn to spread their wings and fly.