This article is about nicknames for the city of Detroit, the largest in the state of Michigan. The city is named after the Detroit River, which links Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The word “Detroit” is French for “strait,” and the French called the river “le détroit du Lac Érié,” meaning “the strait of Lake Erie.”
Known historically for being an automotive hub, fittingly home to the world’s largest tire, standing at 80 feet tall and an incredible 12 tons, it is endowed with rich music culture and architecture. Detroit has a population of over 639,000 people, according to the 2020 census.
Detroit is also home to many celebrities, most notably the rapper Eminem (real name, Marshall Mathers). Others include Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Diana Ross, Chris Webber, and Francis Coppola.
Did you know that Detroit was the first city in the United States to pave roads to aid the free movement of vehicles? The first mile of concrete is located at Woodward Avenue between 6 Mile and 7 Mile roads.
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List of Nicknames of Detroit
That said, let’s look at 15 popular nicknames for Detroit.
1. Motor City
When one thinks of automotive companies, Detroit instantly springs to mind which is where General Motors is headquartered. The city is nicknamed “Motor City” because it has been the center of the American automotive industry for more than a century. By 1900, Detroit was a manufacturing center for horse-drawn carriages and coaches. Henry Ford built his first automobile assembly plant in the area in 1903.
A similar nickname to the one above that Detroit bears is “Motown,” and it’s obvious why. The moniker combines the words “motor” and “town” and indicates that Detroit is home to an auto industry that prospered in the 20th century.
3. The 313
The area code for Detroit is 313, and as a result, most people refer to it as “The 313.” In the 2002 film 8 Mile, featuring Eminem, the 313 area code is mentioned multiple times because of the film’s setting in Detroit. Eminem’s character, B–Rabbit, and his friends call their group “three one third,” their nickname for the area code.
4. The Murder City
The nicknames of Detroit are not always fond ones and this one, “The Murder City,” speaks to the city’s dark side and its history of violent crimes. In 2020, Detroit had a rate of 2,248.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents making it the third-highest rate in the country among cities with more than 100,000 residents.
Hockeytown is a nickname for the city of Detroit which came about in 1996 following the marketing campaign by the city’s NHL franchise, the Detroit Red Wings. The nickname has over time, gained national and international recognition. The “Hockeytown Café” in Detroit commemorates the nickname.
6. The D
“The D” has grown to become emblematic of the city of Detroit. Since the early 1900s the city’s baseball team, the Detroit Tigers, have emblazoned “D” in a blackletter typeface, on their uniforms. The D became a rallying symbol for Detroit following a series of race riots in the city. Detroit residents have gone on to hail their city as “The (Big) D.”
7. Comeback City
For good reasons, Detroit has earned the nickname “America’s Comeback City.” According to Forbes, Detroit’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent in 2016, down from a high of 19 percent. In 2017, the poverty rate was at 13.4 percent, a full point below the national average. This transformation is made all the more outstanding given that the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy as recently as 2013 and goes to show that America’s industrial cities can move forward as the economy evolves.
8. Hitsville U.S.A.
Although “Hitsville U.S.A.” is the nickname given to a recording studio in Detroit, it’s in Motown, which is short for “Motor Town,” which is a nickname for Detroit. Hitsville U.S.A is also a tourist attraction in Detroit that launched the music careers of icons such as Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and many more.
9. The Renaissance City
Detroit’s rebound following its economic downturn has earned it the nickname “The Renaissance City.” It has been suggested that the city’s baseball team can complete the turnaround by winning the World Series. Will that happen? We’ll see.
10. Paris of the Midwest
Detroit has been called “Paris of the Midwest” for its French heritage, architecture, and streets designed as Parisian Boulevards by Augustus B. Woodward.
11. Arsenal of Democracy
Detroit’s automobile plants were repurposed during WWII and built everything from tanks to bombs to guns. When the auto factories turned out tanks and warplanes, its role in the war earned it a place in history as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
12. Tiger Town
After the name of the city’s baseball team—The Detroit Tigers.
The original way to pronounce the name of the city of Detroit.
14. Startup City
Because of the abundant workspace resources available, that has appeal for startups.
15. City of Reinvention
For its ability to serve various purposes as a cultural, musical, and automotive hub.
Are there any other nicknames for Detroit that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.