Why is Chicago Called “The Windy City”?

Chicago Skyline
If you’ve ever taken a stroll along Lake Michigan, you may have felt a stronger breeze along the water, but that increase in wind speed is actually not why Chicago is called the windy city. So where did the Chicago “windy city” nickname come from? Skydeck has the scoop on this mysterious moniker. 


Is Chicago a Windy City? 

Contrary to popular belief, Chicago is not the windiest city in the United States. That honor goes to Boston, Massachusetts, which boasts wind speeds that are regularly up to two miles per hour faster than Chicago’s. In fact, Chicago doesn’t even rank on most top 10 lists for wind speeds in America, so why is Chicago called the windy city? 


A Different Kind of Wind

One of the first known instances of Chicago’s “windy city” nickname came from a New York Sun reporter named Charles A. Dana in 1893, who editorialized that the city’s politicians were “full of hot air.” Chicago and New York were in a head-to-head competition at the time to host the next World’s Fair, and Chicago’s “windbag” advocates were not shy about campaigning for their hometown in order to win. Despite Dana’s best efforts to discredit Chicago as a “windy city”, the 1893 World’s Fair was held in Illinois, not New York. 

Even before the World’s Fair debate, there were other published instances of the windy city nickname. The Cincinnati Enquirer used the term in 1876 in reference to a tornado that blew through the city, while also capitalizing on the term’s double meaning to highlight local speakers who were “full of wind.” 

From there, the nickname stuck, and the rest is history! 


Other Chicago Nicknames 

The Chicago “windy city” nickname usually is what sticks in people’s minds, but there are several other names Chicago is known for:

  • Chi-town: Pronounced shy-town, this is a shortened version of the city’s name
  • The City of Big Shoulders: Taken from the first line of Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Chicago”
  • The Second City: This one has two possible meanings. The first refers to when Chicago was the second largest metropolitan city in the United States during the early 20th century; the second calling on when the city had to rebuild itself for the second time after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. 

Chicago is Fun By Any Name! 

Why is it called the windy city? We’re not full of hot air when we say Chicago is great! You can experience everything the city has to offer for yourself when you plan a visit. While you’re here, be sure to add Skydeck to your must-see list! We offer incredible views of the Windy City for an adventure you’ll never forget. Save time when you get your tickets online!

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