Engoo Blog Travel & Fun

Big Apples and Big Shoulders: Nicknames for 8 US Cities

Big Apples and Big Shoulders: Nicknames for 8 US Cities

America is a very large country. Different parts have different climates, different accents and different local cultures.

Sometimes, a city's name can give you a lot of information about it. While the original names are often connected to important people or places in history, nicknames usually have fun backstories or tell you something about the people who live there.

This article will explore the unofficial names of eight different places in America. Some places are big and famous around the world, while others are less well known. However, all of them have nicknames that are interesting and can help you to sound more fluent if you mention them in a conversation.

We'll also share the unique names for the residents of each city. Pack your bags and let's hit the road!

New York City, NY

A "NEW YORK" sign visible among many buildings in a busy city scene

New York City is one of the most famous places in the world. However, even though it is well known, many people are surprised to learn that it is not the capital of the state; New York's capital is Albany, which is further north.

"NYC" is so famous that it has multiple nicknames. Perhaps the most common is "The Big Apple." There are many ideas about the origin of this name, but it became popular due to the journalist John J. Fitz Gerald, who often referred to the city with this name in newspapers dedicated to horseracing. The name gained further popularity through music, particularly jazz coming from the neighborhood of Harlem.

New York's other big nickname, "The City That Never Sleeps," is a bit easier to understand.

It is common to describe cities with a low amount of activity as "sleepy." New York, however, is so large, so crowded and so active that the energy never seems to stop. As a result, it earned a nickname suitable for a place that is always "awake" and always exciting. It was popularized by the song "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra.

I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps

Frank Sinatra from "New York, New York"

New York City residents are known as "New Yorkers."

Los Angeles, CA

A panoramic picture of Los Angeles with a purple sky during sunset

After New York, Los Angeles is the next biggest city in America by population.

Most people would probably agree that LA is most famous for the entertainment industry, which produces films and television series that are seen around the globe. For this reason, the city is called "The Entertainment Capital of the World."

But that nickname is only one of many. LA is also known as "La La Land" and "Tinseltown." Tinsel is a shiny string decoration that you can often see during the Christmas season or for special events. This refers to LA's reputation for the fancy and expensive lifestyles of the celebrities and wealthy people who live there.

"La La" does not have meaning on its own, but it has a slightly negative nuance of someone daydreaming or fantasizing. This is appropriate for LA, which attracts many people who have dreams of becoming rich and famous stars. This nickname was also used as the title for a popular musical film released 2016.

Finally, LA's other nickname is a reference to its original meaning in Spanish, "The City of Angels."

People who live in LA are called "Angelenos."

Chicago, IL

Chicago Theater on a busy city street at night

Chicago is located in the area of the US known as the Midwest. Like other big cities, it has several nicknames.

Although it is now ranked number three in population, Chicago was only behind New York City for many years. As a result, it received the nickname "The Second City," which is still used today.

A more famous nickname, however, is "The Windy City." Because Chicago is located near a very large lake, Lake Michigan, it often experiences very strong winds, particularly in the downtown area, which has many tall buildings.

However, others believe the name is not related to weather at all. A common English expression is to say someone is "full of hot air." This means that a person likes to brag, or talk proudly about what they are or what they can do. It is said that Chicago residents had a reputation for bragging. All of that hot air led to the nickname of "windy!" 

Finally, there is "The City of Big Shoulders," which references Chicago's many large factories full of strong workers.

Chicago residents are called "Chicagoans."

Detroit, MI

An aerial view of Downtown Detroit's skyscrapers

Also located in the Midwest is Detroit, the largest city in the state of Michigan.

Detroit's main nickname, "The Motor City," is a reference to its importance as the center of the US car industry. Many large car companies, including General Motors and Ford, have headquarters there or near there.

Detroit is also known as "Motown." This comes from the name of the world-famous record label started by Barry Gordy in 1959. Motown is responsible for launching the careers of many legendary soul and R&B musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Michael Jackson and Erykah Badu.

People who live in Detroit are called "Detroiters."

Reno, NV

A bright neon sign advertising Reno at night

A city doesn't need to be large to have a nickname. In fact, Reno's nickname proudly says that the city is not large.

Reno is located in the western US state of Nevada, just east of California. Similar to Las Vegas, the largest city in the state, Reno is popular for its casinos and gambling entertainment. When you enter downtown Reno, you can see its nickname on the famous neon sign over Virginia Street: "The Biggest Little City in the World."

Reno residents are called "Renoites."

New Orleans, LA

A building in New Orleans' French Quarter decorated with colorful flags and beads for Mardi Gras

Located in the southeastern state of Louisiana, New Orleans is well known for its distinctive food and musical cultures. It is particularly famous for its jazz history and for Mardi Gras, a large street celebration that takes place in February. 

In the past, Louisiana was controlled by France, and the French influence can still be seen in many aspects of the city, including its name — Orléans is a city in northern France.

As for nicknames, the city's most famous one is "The Big Easy." Why? Many believe it came from how easy it was for the city's musicians to find work in the early 20th century. It may also refer to the attitude of the residents, who tend to be carefree and relaxed. These residents are called "New Orleanians."

Philadelphia, PA

Downtown Philadelphia at sunset

Philadelphia is the largest city in the eastern US state of Pennsylvania. It has an important role in the birth of modern America, and was even the country's capital until 1800.

"Philadelphia" itself is a pretty long name, which is why it is often shortened to just "Philly." Its other famous nickname, however, is "The City of Brotherly Love." This comes from its direct translation from Ancient Greek ("philos" meaning "beloved," and "adelphós" meaning "brother" or "brotherly").

Perhaps this is also the origin behind one of the city's famous landmarks, the "LOVE" sculpture located in John F. Kennedy Plaza — which is also known as "LOVE Park"!

Philly residents are "Philadelphians."

Miami, FL

Cars driving on a beachside Miami street on a sunny day

We'll conclude this list with Miami, a sunny city located at the bottom of the southern state of Florida.

The city's real name comes from Miyaimi, the historical name of what is now called Lake Okeechobee.  Miami's nickname, however, is "The Magic City" because of its unusually rapid growth during World War II.

Also, because of the strong connections and movement of people between the two, Miami is also known as both "The Gateway to Latin America" and "The Gateway to the Americas."

But there's still more! In recent years, Miami gained an additional nickname: "Vice City." This name comes from the TV series Miami Vice, which was a major hit in the 1980s and had a big cultural impact in the following years.

In 2002, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, a video game set in a fictional version of Miami, was released. It also was a huge hit, selling over 17 million copies and helping to make Miami even more famous with this nickname.

People who live in Miami are called "Miamians."

From coast to coast

From busy cities filled with people and skyscrapers to relaxed, stylish areas by the beach, you can find a little bit of everything in America. As you can see, a city's nickname can give you a lot of interesting information about its history, reputation and residents.

If you're interested in learning more, there are many other American cities with fun nicknames, including Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Boston and Washington, D.C. Do a little research and you may discover your next vacation destination!