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Does Chicago Deserve Its “Windy City” Nickname?

Chicago's "Windy City" moniker conjures images of blustery streets, but it's not just about the weather. The term also nods to its historical political climate and long-winded residents. Yet, is this reputation truly warranted? Uncover the layers behind Chicago's breezy alias and consider what other secrets the city's gusts might be whispering. What do you think lies at the heart of Chicago's winds?

Chicagoans might boast that they thrive in the "Windy City," but if they knew the origins of that title, they might keep quiet about it. According to History.com, the most likely sources of Chicago's best-known nickname were newspapers in rival Midwest cities that used the phrase to take a dig at Chicago's supposedly long-winded or braggart citizens. A similar origin story attributes the nickname to the reputation of Chicago's 19th-century politicians, who were notoriously "full of hot air." In other words, "windy" wasn't a good thing.

But then again, Chicago is often hit by strong winds, and even tornadoes, so the meteorological aspect rings true, as well. According to etymologist Barry Popik, who has spent years researching the origin of the term, “They used the term for windy speakers who were full of wind, and there was a wind-storm in Chicago. It’s both at once."

The "Windy City" nickname doesn't just refer to Chicago's weather, but also to its supposedly self-important inhabitants.
The "Windy City" nickname doesn't just refer to Chicago's weather, but also to its supposedly self-important inhabitants.

While it might not be fair to call Chicagoans "windy," it's also not entirely accurate to describe the city as particularly wind-swept. For example, History.com cites Boston, New York, and San Francisco as some of the larger cities that deal with harsher winds than Chi-town.

Some Chicago certainties:

  • George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. designed the original Ferris wheel for the World's Columbian Exposition, a world's fair held in Chicago in 1893.

  • Chicago's Home Insurance Building became the world's first skyscraper in 1885.

  • Chicago is the starting point of the famous Route 66.

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    • The "Windy City" nickname doesn't just refer to Chicago's weather, but also to its supposedly self-important inhabitants.
      By: Shelby L. Bell
      The "Windy City" nickname doesn't just refer to Chicago's weather, but also to its supposedly self-important inhabitants.