8 Famous City Nicknames and Their Surprising Backstories

Just in case you weren't sure why New York is called "The Big Apple."

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Sin City. Windy City. The Big Apple. You've heard all these famous city nicknames by now, but you might be surprised to learn where they actually came from.

Spoiler: Some aren't as obvious as you think. Keep reading for the fascinating history behind the nicknames of eight major U.S. locales.

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Las Vegas, "Sin City"
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Known for its gambling scene, it's no wonder why Las Vegas has been infamously referred to as "Sin City." By the time the practice was legalized in Nevada in 1931, after being outlawed in 1910, the city was already full of , as well as organized crime, according to History.com.

But not everyone agrees with the nickname. According to the "Las Vegas Sun News," the from "Sin City" to the "Entertainment Capital of the World," with top performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and more gracing the strip.

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Seattle, "Emerald City"
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Those who have visited Seattle know that the city not only produces great coffee, it's also surrounded by some pretty impressive greenery year-round. Highlights include Green Lake park, Discovery Park and the Washington Park Arboretum, according to . With all the lush forestry, it's no surprise Seattle garnered the nickname Emerald City, though it's also been known as "Rain City," "The Coffee Capital of the World" as well as "Jet City."

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Miami, "The Magic City"
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Miami essentially became a city overnight. As people flocked to the area more than a century ago looking for land, they relied on the Miami River for food and the area earned its nickname "The Magic City" for how fast it turned into its own urban center, according to . It wasn't until the late 1960s that Miami would become culturally diverse, and it's now a headquarters for multinational companies and financial institutions.

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Denver, "The Mile High City"
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Denver's 5,280-foot elevation point — the same amount of feet in 1 mile – is a huge part of the city's identity. So it's no wonder that its nickname pays homage. Geologists suggest that Denver's altitude may have something to do with chemical reactions set off by water from below the Earth's surface millions of years ago, according to the . At Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, a single row of purple seats interrupts the 50,000 green ones, officially marking the mile-high line.

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New York City, "The Big Apple"
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The phrase "big apple" actually dates back to the 19th century, when people would to show confidence or assuredness, reports 6sqft. Though it really became big in the horse racing world around 1920. Turns out jockeys and trainers of smaller horses would call the prizes offered at larger races in and around "big apple." Soon, the term was picked up in sports columns and helped spread the moniker, which would later be popularized through slang in film and underground movements, nightclubs as well as the "Big Apple" tourism campaign of the 1960s.

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Philadelphia, "City Of Brotherly Love"
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This one's simple actually: The name Philadelphia for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. The naming of the city is credited to William Penn, a Quaker leader who advocated for religious freedom, and who also oversaw the founding of the American Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While there's no knowing what exactly was going through his mind when he named the city, it's nice to think it had something to do with declaring the land a welcoming place for all.

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Chicago, "Windy City"
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Sure, the city's known for its blistering weather, but there could be another reason behind Chicago's famous moniker. While the term may have began as a reference to the city's strong breezes, it's also possible the phrase took on a as the city's profile rose in the late 19th century, according to History.com. Some experts cite newspapers from rival Midwest cities using the term in their headlines as a jab to call out Chicago's boastful citizens or politicians who were thought as being "full of hot air."

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Baltimore, "Charm City"
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While many credit the city's nickname to writer H. L. Mencken, the term really seems to have stuck around 1975, according to "The Baltimore Sun." Concerned about the city's image, then mayor William Donald Schaefer asked the city's leading advertising executives and creative directors to come up with a . Their solution: "The Charm City" to refer to Baltimore's history and hidden charm. The new slogan took off from there, though the lore of H. L. Mencken still lives on.

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