The Surprisingly Interesting Reason Chicago is Called “The Windy City” Has Nothing to Do With Wind

The Surprisingly Interesting Reason Chicago is Called “The Windy City” Has Nothing to Do With Wind

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On a particularly blustery February South
Side day, it is easy to understand why the city of Chicago has the nickname of the “Windy
City.” After all, it has one of the roughest winters
of all major American cities and it does get pretty regular gusts. But, in truth, it actually isn’t all that
windy, relatively speaking; in terms of average annual wind speeds, Chicago ranks as the 73rd
windiest city out of 275 cities where data is collected from – behind other major cities
like Cleveland, San Francisco, Boston and New York City. (This is not dissimilar to the fact that Seattle
doesn’t actually get that much rain, ranking 44th among major cities in the United States
on that front, with less rain than such cities as New York, Houston, and Boston.) So, why does Chicago have the reputation of
being so windy and where did it get the nickname? While the word “Chicago” has Native American
origins, the origin of the “windy city” moniker seems to have more to do with infamous Chicago
politics than weather patterns. For most of the 19th century, Chicago went
by other nicknames, including “Garden City” in reference to the city’s immense collection
of beautiful gardens, parks and Victorian-era rural cemeteries. There was also “City by the Lake” and “Heart
of America,” which are fairly self-explanatory. Beyond these, the city was sometimes called
the “Second City,” which the famed Chicago comedy troupe still goes by. The origins of this stem from civic pride,
with Chicago literally rising from the ashes of the catastrophic 1871 fire and becoming
the second most populated city in the country only two decades after the fire, partially
due to extensive rebuilding efforts, see our video Was the Great Chicago Fire Really Started
by a Cow? (However, only a few years after that, Los
Angeles would knock Chicago to third.) As for “windy city,” according to esteemed
etymologist Barry Popik, who’s also the word-nerd who managed to definitively track down Why
New York City is called The Big Apple, the first known usage of the term “windy city”
in reference to Chicago can be found in an April 1858 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune,
where it notes: “An hundred militia officers, from corporal to commander, condemned to air
their vanity and feathers only for the delectation of the boys and servant girls in this windy
city.” This is followed up by a July 4, 1860 edition
of the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel that notes, “We are proud of Milwaukee because she is
not overrun with a lazy police force as is Chicago — because her morals are better,
he [sic] criminals fewer, her credit better; and her taxes lighter in proportion to her
valuation than Chicago, the windy city of the West.” More poignantly making the figurative connotation
crystal clear, it was noted by a Cincinnati Times reporter in the 1866 publication of
Chronicling America, “Chicago is a very windy town. There is probably more blow about that place
than any other in the world. In comparison to its “blows” the dreaded Simoon
is only Simoonshine. The elements are combined to form a monster
ear trumpet, the little end of which is inserted into the public ear, and thro’ it all Chicago
blows the praises of that wonderful city, until it makes the public head ache — actually
splitting the ears of the groundlings.” Over the course of the next few decades, there
are many similar instances of individuals from Cincinnati particularly noting Chicago
was a “city of wind” or a “windy city.” As with the aforementioned examples, these
were often not talking about literal wind, but referencing things like Chicago’s elites
– such as politicians and bankers – who were purportedly always full of hot-air and constantly
looking to con regular citizens. This nickname and its figurative sense was
even reported on all the way in New York, when, in 1867, the New York Evening Post (later
with the same message repeated in the Philadelphia Public Ledger) noted, “The controversies between
the Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis newspapers as to the importance of their respective cities,
is amusing to outsiders. The Cincinnati Commercial lately called Chicago
a ‘city of wind’…” While this sort of civic name-calling and
city rivalry isn’t quite as common today, at this time citizens of certain cities often
jumped at any chance to take jabs at their neighboring cities, sometimes even when disasters
struck. For instance, when a twister hit Chicago in
the 1880s, the Cincinnati writers, rather than showing concern for the people affected,
took the chance to make fun of Chicago by saying that the tornado failed to knock down
the buildings because they “were so heavily weighed down with mortgages that no whirlwind
could affect them.” By the late 1880s, reporters in other of Chicago’s
surrounding major cities, like St. Louis and Cleveland, had copied the frequent Cincinnati
taunt and were likewise regularly calling Chicago the “windy city”. In 1890, Chicago was in competition with New
York to get the 1893 World’s Fair and a fair bit of mudslinging ensued over which
city was best. It is claimed that the editor of the New York
Sun, Charles A. Dana, took up the mocking moniker for Chicago when he wrote a passionate
plea to his readers about why New York deserved the World’s Fair over Chicago. In the article, he supposedly wrote that everyone
should ignore the “nonsensical claims of that windy city. Its people could not hold a world’s fair even
if they won it.” He further supposedly noted that Chicago was
“a dingy aggregation of disgraceful hovels situate in a dank and foul morass, disgracing
a noble sheet of water; the air polluted not only by natural decay but also by the dense
effuvia arising from Chicago’s crude and filthy habits…” Of course, Chicago did end up beating out
New York to host the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It should be noted here, however, that while
both the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Historical Society claim that this how the
term was popularized, the Dana editorial has actually never been found and the first known
reference to it is a whopping four decades later in a 1933 Chicago Tribune article “Chicago
Dubbed `Windy’ In Fight For Fair of ’93” purporting to explain how the city got the
nickname. Today, most etymologists think that the “Dana
popularization/origin” story isn’t correct given that going all the way back to the 1860s
there were many references, from St. Louis to New York, to Chicago being called the “windy
city,” with the same mocking sense Dana used (along with the occasional reference to literal
wind). In the end, despite its mostly mocking origin,
the city ultimately embraced this moniker. In fact, the Chicago tourism industry even
occasionally used the phrase in the literal sense as a way to promote itself as a great
summer vacation spot, with the winds off of Lake Michigan supposedly keeping sunbathers
cool on the nearby beach.

100 thoughts on “The Surprisingly Interesting Reason Chicago is Called “The Windy City” Has Nothing to Do With Wind

  • MG Honor Post author

    When I was seven the wind made me fly off the ground so I beg to differ.

    Also I love that I live in a city that’s name means “stinky onion”.

  • Jules Marten Post author

    Why aren't there's World's Fairs anymore?

  • iRdMoose Post author

    I've always been curious about the origin of phrases like, "blowing smoke up one's bum." I could totally get behind a video like that. It's a subject you'd kick ass with, I'm sure.

  • John Quist Post author

    Thought it was called the Windy City because of all the blow coming from the south side

  • Sonja Johnson Post author

    I suppose the newspapers were keeping things relatively classy by not making direct allusions to "breaking wind" as well as to being full of hot air….

    Learning this made me laugh aloud.

  • Holly Owens Post author

    Or is it Wendy eschner selling drugs to steal my houses and money

  • Christopher Trott Post author

    Crook County

  • Christopher Trott Post author

    In Chicago you have to know how to speak sign language – Some Alderman

  • graycloud057 Post author

    Screw Chicago.

  • Pam Czech Post author

    I learned there was a politician that talked so much they called him windy and when they called Chicago windy they were actually calling it windy's city

  • Penguin Tacos Post author

    Idk Simon as somone who lives in Chicago its genuily pretty windy

  • Vallen Cookie Post author

    Wait, where's Buffalo, NY on the list

  • Marena Wheatley Post author

    Why are rabies victims afraid of water?

  • Steve Scharschmidt Post author

    I knew that city was full of blow hards. They thought they were insulting Wisconsin sports fans by calling us cheese heads. Instead we embraced it!

  • Dogurasu Post author

    So basically, Chicago has always been a shit hole.

  • George Lackey Post author

    How long did it take to make up this shitty story? What a farce!

  • George Lackey Post author

    Never experienced The Hawk?

  • Kirby Little Post author

    Chicago is cold, crappy…..and full of stuck up douchbags.

    That's all you need to know 👌👌

  • USA 4EVER Post author

    The city smelled like ass and everyone realized that the huge consumption of beans by its population and the ensuing flatulence, ie constant "breaking wind" was the cause. So it was decided that they should be acknowledged for their foul order with the moniker of "The Windy City".

  • Rachael Lefler Post author

    Isn't that common today? Nah intra-regional and inter-regional rivalry is still pretty big in certain parts of the U.S. today.

  • Rachael Lefler Post author

    Keeping sunbathers cool? You can freeze to death if it's not July or August.

  • MGR1900 Post author

    “Oh $#i+!”

    “That’s a Bozo no no!”

    “Cram it, clownie!”

  • Rachael Lefler Post author

    There is literal wind though, and it will knock you on your ass. But at least it's not Cincinatti where everything is up a fucking hill.

  • J. P. Post author

    Sweet home Chicago!

  • MadakiNomaroishi Post author

    It's windy because all of the idiot Democrat ideas blowing all the money 👌

  • Chlorodiazepoxide Post author

    Most days, no matter what direction you walk, the winds always blowing in your face

  • Reason to Rule All Post author

    WINDY WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND is the true windy city!

  • Matt Mccabe Post author

    La counts it's suburbs in their population Chicago doesn't so is la really bigger than Chicago check your facts

  • yax itzy Post author

    I thought it was wound up. All the buildings were manually raised. Windy was written and it didn't translate well in text form.

  • kurt lee Post author

    So can anyone tell me why it's called the windy city?

  • doggonemess Post author

    It's windy because they eat a lot of cheese and sausages.

  • Scott Sloop Post author

    B.S. Seattle is not about volume, but frequency…and Chicago is about 100 MPH gusts , not total wind. Nit picking

  • Jeff NME Post author

    So it's: windy = blowhard
    That's pretty funny.

  • Conway79 Post author

    I always thought it was because of Trump Tower.

  • Memaw knows best Post author

    I learned the reason for the nickname in grade school. It was because of the political climate not the weather.

  • Paul Racine Post author

    #1 There are political "windbags" in EVERY major city…EVERY!
    #2 most buildings have revolving doors…because of wind!
    #3 The city is located next to a large body of water causing….wind!
    #4 Great Chicago fire spread so quickly because of….wind!
    Windchill factor in Chicago 2005….-68° below zero!!!
    2nd lowest temperature on the FACE OF THE EARTH!!

  • Abel De los angeles Post author

    Hey wuzup, thank you for the continent I enjoy your videos very much. I am a truck driver and I work out of Chicago, it's a known fact in the industry that if you're going north on the I94 to Wisconsin, you must watch out for wind speed. There are even signs posted.. Every single year trucks get flipped over because of wind gust just because they're traveling lite load. the wind will literally pick up a semi truck and trailer with a LTL load or empty trailers and flippin on the side.. so it's pretty fucking windy out there…

  • Dangic23 Post author

    I live in Cheyenne….wind here is ridiculous

  • Erik Odegaard Post author

    I mean it’s still winding but mainly from all the gun shots

  • ObeyUtopia Post author

    Thanks be to “Bank Of England” Simon, for whistling such hot air (in a cool way, lol) while completely ignoring the fact that what “lies” just South of Chi-town & North of Indianapolis, consists of the largest INLAND wind farming op found in all of N.America (possibly IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, once completed). This massive turbines project spans across BOTH indiana & Illinois, likely utilizing world’s largest collection of shallow bodies of INLAND freshwater lakes neighboring THEE city (that blows as much black money around as it does white money around, if not more so!). Such types of misdirection tactics being continually practiced by your writers staff compels me to finally CHIME in, hence this rant recv’d…. Your channels “SEA-Man-Ticks” make me “E.ON” (sounds like “yawn”, no?), lol; this is the name of zee German owned engineering firm spearheading this WINDY ongoing project. ALSO, please give my thanks to your channel’s other key silent funder “Deutsch Bank” for their relentless efforts to continually dumb-down us gringos spanning at least last century+ timeline. YES, ‘tis true; of the six stock-exchange locations found in USA where you’d go to gamble on the weather (aka “Weather’s derivatives” or “exotic derivatives), CME is indeed NOT “#2” in the Nation. Rather, this Chicago Mercantile Exchange is THEE #1 stock market for cashing-in on bets being placed on where/when droughts &/or bumper-crop yields will be striking next (“disaster capitalism” encompasses BigAGRO + their insurance company partnerships’ territory, after all)…
    WHAT ARE THE ODDS THAT THE PATENTS OFFICE COUNTY-LOCATION (where weather modification related technology patents have been filed/processed going as far back as 1891 folks! As well, keep in mind that USA’s IPR infrastructure was basically modeled after France’s version & then adopted here sometime around 1880) resides in the SAME COUNTY AS CME’s (NOT to be confused w/ solar radiation management’s “CME” lingo, which stands for “Coronal Mass Ejection” ) ADDRESS LOCATION; “Cook County, IL”??? A more realistic version of history is what the next generation deserves, flawed & all, & not have their time wasted by listening to this type of propaganda. Lastly, thanks in advance for any attempts made to delete this unfavorable comment; further reinforcing my point that your goals serve specific interests over those of your target audience.

  • Man Hattan Post author

    This verbose narrator could make any subject…very boring.

  • Michel Angelo Post author

    i figured it was so windy because of how fast everyone is leaving the state

  • Noorjahan Amlani Post author

    Chicago means smelly onion

  • rmskapura Post author

    Did anybody else already know this fact because of Steelo Brim on Ridiculousness? I immediately thought of the time he amazed Rob by telling him this fact on one of the episodes when I saw this title! #SteeloBrimIsAwesome

  • Jay Leslie Post author

    the 1904 st louis worlds fair was the biggest ever knocking both chicago and san francico off the map!

  • Jay Leslie Post author

    meet me in st louis continue to stil be banined about!

  • Lon Johnson Post author

    Take a walk along the lake and you likely will have no need to imagine how the city got its name.

    Also, at the end, did he just reference a link for TopTenz, "bellow," or is that my imagination?

  • Not Today Post author

    In short, it was called the windy city because of its corrupt politics.

  • Ryan A Post author

    Clearly hasn’t been to chicago

  • Prepperjon Post author

    Way to much information in the beginning and so much to do with

  • Krystal Post author

    As a Chicagoan it is my pride to correct people. So this makes me happy

  • pullt Post author

    Oklahoma City is the windiest large city…and that doesn't even count tornadoes, just the regular wind.

  • the madman lowercase Post author

    Who says "[sic]"?

  • Tobi Og Post author

    Nah it is still ridiculously windy. Subzero windchill in the winter will freeze your face off (I’m not really exaggerating)

  • Jesus Aranda Post author

    Ahh Chicago, a city of many names.
    City in a garden
    The city of broad shoulders
    The city that works
    The Windy City
    Chi town
    And my personal favorite, the place of the stinky onions, aka what Chicago literally means in the Algonquian language.

  • Mattofcolumbia1783 Post author

    Ellensburg Washington is the real windy city.

  • Capitalist Pig Post author

    Windy city means Democrat propaganda. All democrats should be executed for treason and their remain ground up for the poor they created. Democrats are not human and should be treated as vermin.

  • constipated in sin city Post author

    Mount Vernon

  • Mahinda Githaiga Post author

    I would like to know what do they do with the costumes and props after shooting a movie, TV series and music video.

  • Lonnie Dobbins III Post author

    I can tell you that evidently they calculated the wind at the wrong Times.
    I've been blown all over this city by winds so strong you wouldn't try to travel in it.
    Winds that blow cars off the road. No rain, no storm in sight.

  • manu Honkanen Post author

    How many came because the movie "Sleepless in Chicago"?

  • B A Post author

    Chicago = Too many Democrat Windbags.

  • Rubana Manzur Post author

    That is privileged information for Chicagoans ONLY

  • ChiTown Mountain Post author

    I am a Chicago native of 55 years. The "Windy City" is really about our politics. Or i should say our politicians. Long winded politicians, full of hot air politicians, over filled air bags politicians. It really has nothing to do with our weather or the actual wind speeds.

  • krak_a_lak Post author

    While it's not the name because of weather, it is always windy here. Our weather is absolute trash in Chicago.

  • Rob McCafferty Post author

    Seattle, Washington. Where the state flower is mildew

  • Poor Man Games Post author

    it down town when they build the buildings and the wind so u can come to a corner of a building and get blown off your feet is 1 reason

  • Diddy Doodat Post author

    I live in Chicago, you're nuts. It's very windy here buddy.

  • Adam Kendall Post author

    Who's peekin' out from under a stairway
    Calling a name that's lighter than air
    Who's bending down to give me a rainbow
    Everyone knows it's Windy

    Who's tripping down the streets of the city
    Smilin' at everybody she sees
    Who's reachin' out to capture a moment
    Everyone knows it's Windy

  • Paul S Post author

    Windy? try smelly.

  • Frank Landowski Post author

    Because it’s corrupt as shit. There you go. Lol

  • StormCaller5 Post author

    Careful Seattle. You too could end up with the nickname of Windy City.

  • BUTTERBOY Post author

    As a Chicagoan I can vouch for the winter part

  • jim stoecker Post author

    I thought it was called the windy city because it Was a place where politicians stood on the street corners on their soapboxes to give speeches and to debate like the Lincoln Douglas debates…

  • Oldenweery Post author

    According to several writers of the Western genre, in the Old West, "Windy" was a synonym for "Tall Tale," as in: "He's telling a windy." And Chicago's politicians, like everyone else's, were pretty good at telling "Windies."

  • BirdValiant Post author

    The Milwaukee critique is still surprisingly relevant 159 years later, to this very day. Chicago has higher taxes, worse credit, and worse crime than Milwaukee (though it of course has its own issues to contend with). Wisconsinites indeed have a long tradition of making fun of the FIBS and flatlanders to the south.

  • Debbie Marie Post author

    Now that I know what the moniker actually means, it seems more apt than ever.

  • PureKaoZ Post author

    So much shade being thrown in the 1800s. Love it.

  • Marie Jensen Post author

    Thank you!
    It is so annoying when people don't know this.

  • Michael Enders Post author

    What I heard was that when a reporter from a New York newspaper was writing about the Columbian Exposition, the got weary of Chicagoans boasting about how wonderful their city was and wrote the "Chicago is a very boastful and windy city."

  • Michael Enders Post author

    As someone who has lived in Chicago, several years, my memories of the wind in Chicago are the umbrellas in the trash receptacles that were torn apart by wind and not very effective any way against rain that comes sideways, the sudden shift in wind direction when passing the corner of a tall building, and the wind chill on days when the temperature without the wind is several degrees below zero. Other cities may have more wind, but in a really cold day, one really feels it and wishes that it would go away.

  • CrazyBear65 Post author

    Was it Mrs O'Leary's cow, or Frank Gallagher?

  • Fayanora Ahnabahn Post author


  • One MercilessMing Post author

    Not actually windy? ROFLMAO. Then, sir, you've never stood a mid-watch at GLAKES in mid-winter or taken off from O'Hare in a CRJ.

  • Annie Warbux Post author

    Yes, "The Windy City" is in reference to politics, originally. The stance of a politician and issues at hand can swing in any direction. Like the wind. But. It. IS. WINDY! Lake Michigan is aka The Little Ocean and with it comes winds of up to 70mph. Rain, snow or shine! NYC and Chicago DID have pollution and festering streets. The Burroughs of NY were rank! But, Jane Adams pioneered what we now know as garbage removal services because she realized how sick people got. Especially children. Now, Downtown shines! The World's Fair was a one off. If it were today, most travellers would come from the East, by rail or road through NWI, and the bottle neck it would create cannot be managed. They tried to count local traffic in the early 90's and found it would be impossible to take on 3x more traffic. That is why Chicago cannot host the Summer Olympics. "Illiana" is trying to create southern bypass routes, with no success. Voters will not have it. I could tell you many stories of how the high winds can blow. Blowing so much sand that it engulfs Downtown Chicago in an orange kind of cloud. (And it hurts on bare skin) Or how the Lake can be so rough and windy that it chucks heavy waste like tubs and ties and engines from its depths. But, you only have to visit Chicago to know that it IS a Windy City!!!

  • Lary Mayotte Post author

    Using the real reason for calling Chicago the windy city…….. Washington District of Columbia (a foreign territory) should be named the WINDY CITY because of all the politicians, that spew hot air every time they open there mouths! WOULD NOW BE CONSIDERED THE CITY WITH THE MOST BLOW HARD'S IN THE WORLD!

  • DoubleMrE Post author

    The REAL reason Chicago is called "The Windy City": Everybody there farts very, very much.

  • BadVideo Man Post author

    Its probably…because its the FART CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

  • Ross Jones Post author

    Are those books behind you real?

  • Sen Howler Post author

    Good thing professional sports came along so that people can hate other cities and have an excuse for it.

  • John Armstrong Post author

    Stand at Sheridan and Wilson in February….

  • Kaidyn Reece Post author

    Chicago is a magnificent city.
    I remember once I read a comment that said "I wish I loved anything as much as people from Chicago love Chicago" which says a lot. It's not my home, but I do love the place — Michigan Ave, The Art Institute (amazing), the Museum Campus, Lincoln Park, the lakefront, the sports culture, that breathtaking skyline (not at big as NYC's, but more dramatic), the Gold Coast…
    "Effuvia"… that's a word that doesn't even show up in modern dictionaries. I think I get the gist, but does anyone know it's actual meaning?

  • A E Post author

    Should have called it the city of Hot Air

  • Checksum Error Post author

    Seattle gets more rainy days but it's a drizzle, so if you're looking at quantity of rain dropped then it's less. However if you're looking at the number of hours it is raining then it's more. So I think that this was very dismissive of why Seattle is called the rainy city, it is because it rains a lot for months. I lived in Seattle and I have lived in Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale gets 62 inches of rain a year and we got a lot of flooding. However, it typically only rains for 1 hour a day in the summer and not any rain in the winter. However during that hour you get the hardest downpour you've ever seen. In comparison, Seattle gets ~37 inches of rain a year however it's raining constantly. You have dark skies and it's a very light drizzle for months, so the amount of time you spend in the rain is much longer. This is why Seattle is associated with rain. Now YOU are educated, now TODAY YOU FOUND OUT.

  • ThemFuzzyMonsters Post author

    It may not be statistically windy, but when the wind comes from the lake and funnels between those buildings, it catches speed and can knock you over. It is even worse in the winter when that same wind runs at sub-zero temperatures.

  • James Golz Post author


    Also, why did you take 6 minutes to explain this? This is a 2 minutes video, max.

  • Use This Post author

    Well done.

  • Shawn Shaw Post author

    A video from people who clearly don't live here.

  • Itz Pro Post author

    Its also called the 2nd city. What is that about?

  • Dalavine Post author

    I mean the one time I went to/through Chicago, the winds were blowing hard enough that it nearly tipped the rv over so… the weather is windy.

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