The name Indianapolis is a combination of the state name, Indiana, which means “Land of the Indians” and the Greek word, polis, which means “city.” It literally means the “City of Indiana.”
But aside from its official name, Indianapolis has many colloquial nicknames.
This post will give you a list of Indianapolis nicknames and why it has those nicknames, so you can choose the ones that won’t offend your Indianan friends.
Here Are 10 Indianapolis’ Nicknames
Many cities in America, especially the bigger ones, have their own slogans that make it easier for people to remember them. Giving nicknames to a city establishes its identity and helps in promoting the community to attract more tourists.
Among all American cities, Indianapolis is probably the one that has the most nicknames. They can be self-explanatory, positive, or derogatory.
1. “The Hoosier City,” “The Hoosier Capital,” or “The Capital City”
These three nicknames are used interchangeably for obvious descriptive reasons. First, Indianapolis is Indiana’s capital since 1825. Second, the word “Hoosier” refers to a native or resident of Indiana, though its origin isn’t surely known.
One of the most popular theories for the origin of the word is the story about a contractor named Samuel Hoosier who hired many people from Indiana. Those workers were called “Hoosier’s men” back then and might be the reason why Indianans are called Hoosiers today.
Another theory says that it originated from the way the pioneers responded “Who’s yere?” every time someone knocked on their cabin doors. From then on, Indiana became the “Who’s yere” state.
Another explanation came from James Whitcomb Riley, who’s also known as “The Hoosier Poet.” According to him, the early settlers were violent and had a habit of biting off each other’s ears and noses. It became very common for them to walk into a bar in the morning, see an ear on the floor, and ask, “Who’s ear?”
2. The “City of Railroads” or the “Railroad City”
Are you wondering where these terms originated? History pointed out that people started using these terms following the arrival of Indiana’s railroads in the 1850s.
The rise of railways brought a sudden change to Indiana. It also made the city of Indianapolis a major transportation hub as most of the railroads had to pass through the capital. That’s how it got the name “Railroad City” or “City of Railroads.”
3. The “Crossroads of America”
Indianapolis isn’t only known for its railroads. This area is also the intersection of several main highways that link Indiana to other American states.
The Indiana Department of Transportation claimed that at least 14% of the vehicles that passed by their roads were heading to other states. Some historians believed that the interstate highways gave Indianapolis the “Crossroads of America” title.
4. The “Circle City”
Indianapolis is named as the “Circle City” after its downtown’s iconic Monument Circle where the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is located. This area was designed to make Indianapolis look like Washington D.C.
Today, it’s one of Indiana’s most popular landmarks. It features several light shows that represent the Hoosiers’ traditions such as the Indy 500 and the tree lighting ceremony.
Indy is perhaps the most popular term people use to refer to the city of Indianapolis. This is literally an abbreviation that doesn’t need a long explanation.
The word Indianapolis is undeniably long to pronounce, and we prefer to make our sentences shorter. So what’s better than calling it Indy?
6. “India-No-Place” or “End-of-No-Place”
Sometimes spelled as “Indianoplace,” the nickname is rather derogatory. It implies that Indianapolis is a place where people don’t have other things to do except watching sports and drinking.
These expressions mock the city’s location and also suggest that many inhabitants are narrow-minded and stubborn to accept changes. But do you know that many celebrities are from Indianapolis?
Former TV host David Letterman, actress Kristina Wagner, R&B musician Babyface, American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, and ex-president Benjamin Harrison are all from Indianapolis. These brilliant people prove otherwise.
The origin of the nickname “Naptown” isn’t exactly clear. Some people believe that it’s due to the stereotype that the place was a sleepy and boring town. It’s also perceived that the term was simply made from the middle syllable of the city’s name, India-NAP-olis.
The earliest time that “Naptown” was mentioned was in 1927. It’s from an Indianapolis Recorder article about jazz musicians. Since then, the term was used in different articles about music, sports, and other events in town.
8. The “Racing Capital of The World”
Back in the 1980s, the city was referred to as the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World” and “Sportsville, USA.” The city earned these titles after constructing multi-million worth of sports facilities and hosting international events.
Now, Indianapolis is known as “The Racing Capital of The World” as it hosts huge racing events, such as the Brickyard 400, the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, and the Indy 500.
At present, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where these events are held, has a seating capacity of 250,000 but it can accommodate 350,000 people.
The Indy 500 is consideredthe biggest single-day sporting event in the world. In fact, on May 29, 2022, the event brought in 325,000 spectators to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
9. The “Cinderella of the Rust Belt”
You might haven’t heard this nickname from people, but it’s used by the national media to praise the city’s rebirth in the mid-1980s.
Indianapolis started getting noticed when they constructed several landmarks and began hosting sports events. Indy got more positive recognition from the media and earned nicknames like “Diamond in the Rust” and “Star of the Snowbelt.”
10. The “Corn Belt City with Sun Belt Sizzle”
This is another good name that the city is known for, and it’s no surprise as it’s the capital of Indiana, which is a corn state.
The media also used this term in the 1980s, when Indianapolis was at the height of earning a good reputation.
Cities use nicknames and slogans to promote their communities, but sometimes, people make up words that have derogatory meanings.
After reading the list of Indianapolis nicknames and why it has those nicknames, we hope that you’ll choose to use one that has a positive meaning.
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.