Paris has so many nicknames. Mostly positive, but some are negative. Do you know how these Paris nicknames came about?
We often use nicknames to create a bond with a person or place, to establish their identity. Nicknames are usually endearing, but sometimes they can convey negative, uncomplimentary messages.
These Paris nicknames are used to establish immediate recognition, which attracts us and often characterizes the culture, style, and people of that city.
Through the ages, there has been many nicknames for Paris, all of which are used to establish her unique brand and provide insight into the special qualities of this beautiful, fantastic city on the Seine.
Nicknames for Paris
Let’s check out a few of the more notable nicknames for Paris and the Parisians.
City of Light (Ville-Lumière)
We all know Paris as the City of Light, but few people know the origin of this Paris nickname.
Many have speculated that the apparent response might be that Paris absolutely comes alive at night, while millions of lights illuminate the statues, fountains, landmarks, boulevards, bridges, and churches – and as the Eiffel Tower dazzles on the hour, with its glittering lights.
However as brilliant as these illuminations are, they are not responsible for this Paris nickname.
Others believe that this nickname evolved because the city was one of the first to use lightbulbs to light up the streets back in the 19th century—but they would be wrong, as well.
Actually, it was initially with Louis XIV, who wanted to make the streets of Paris safer by requiring that lanterns be placed on streets and in windows to deter criminals, that the popular nickname first appeared.
And subsequently in the 17th and 18th centuries, when Paris became the center of the Age of Enlightenment for inspired thinking and reason, leaving behind the Dark Middle Ages, that Paris became known as “La Ville-Lumière”.
This nickname gained prominence and has remained so ever since.
City of Love (Ville d’Amour)
Pronunciation: veal dah-mur
Ahh, l’amour! Where else but Paris? You don’t have to walk very far on the sidewalks of this place to understand why City of Love is one of the most famous Paris nicknames.
Parisians are well-known for their romantic biases, and you will readily discover couples of all ages in various stages of intimate embrace – in the open!
Paris has always retained the image of being a romantic destination for visitors – where engagements, honeymoons, and anniversaries are regularly celebrated.
Famous Parisian artists throughout the ages have created artworks around the theme of “amour.” For instance, the Rodin Museum’s permanent collection includes stunning sculptures defining love at its most sensual.
Movies such as Funny Face (1957; Audrey Hepburn) and Midnight in Paris (2011; Woody Allen) showcase romantic Paris.
Many singers, like the beloved Charles Aznavour, sang about love in almost all of his songs.
Although le Pont des Arts, the famous Lover’s Bridge, no longer allows couples to secure metal locks to proclaim their passion, it remains a walking bridge where lovers can enjoy a picnic while reading expressions of love on the graffiti murals.
The full declaration of amour can also be found in Montmartre, at Le Mur des Je T’Aime (Wall of Love), where lovers worldwide come to express their affection and experience the vast wall containing the words “I love you,” written in over 350 languages.
Whether through language, art, literature, music, or architecture, the city exudes passion. This Paris nickname is here to stay. This is a city that celebrates l’amour!
Paname is French for Panama, and this Paris nickname may have originally derived from France’s devastating effort in the Panama Canal.
What was once the name of a hat, initially worn by workers in Panama, has become a popular, hip, slang word used as another nickname for Paris.
The Panama hat has remained a fashion statement in Paris ever since it became popular at the World’s Fair of 1855, before the building of the Canal.
However, later, the nickname was not always considered complimentary, as France’s efforts in 1881 to construct the Panama Canal ended in a total disaster, resulting in the loss of over 20,000 people.
So the nickname Paname was then used as a moniker of disdain.
Still, the Panama hat has since become symbolic of Parisian style, and this nickname is referenced in songs like Amoureux de Paname by Renaud, as well as present-day hip-hop music.
The Panama hat is a regular at sporting events like the French Open at Roland Garros, where most patrons wear these hats to protect themselves from the sun while cheering on their favorite player.
There are many clothing lines and restaurants that also incorporate the nickname Paname in their products, such as Paname Collections, Au p’tit Paname, and Le Paname. Thus, the nickname, with all its connotations, continues today.
The Paris nickname, Pantruche, originated from the name of a small city outside of Paris called Pantin, which means “puppet.”
As Paris expanded and annexed some of Pantin’s territory, people began referring to all of Paris as Pantin, which subsequently became Pantruche.
This was not a commonly used nickname for Paris, but it recently became cool again and is used in the names of many restaurants and cafés in Paris.
According to some historians, the name Lutèce originated from the Celtic tribes called the Parisii, who inhabited what is now Paris during the 3rd century BC, in an area called Lutetia Oppidum Parisiorum.
Paris was called Lutèce during the Roman era, derived from the Roman word “Lutetia,” which came from the Latin word “Luta,” meaning swamp or muddy area.
This was how Julius Caesar described the city, and he often referred to it in his writings.
In the 5th arrondissement, we can still find remains of this early time at the Roman amphitheater Arènes de Lutèce.
Today, the nickname Lutèce is more commonly used as the name of a famous restaurant or in literature.
Capital of Fashion (Capitale de la Mode)
Pronunciation: cap-ee-tal duh lah mode
Paris has been the leader in fashion since the time of Louis XIV, and subsequently Marie Antoinette, with their original fashion choices.
And through the centuries, Paris has evolved into the haute couture center it is today – thus the nickname Capital of Fashion, or in French, Capitale de la Mode.
Stylish clothing design is documented in French portraits, literature, and movies. From 1860 to 1960, French couture gained further prominence, culminating in the rise and new designs of Coco Chanel in the 1920s.
Haute couture, another name for high fashion, is exclusively constructed by-hand in special Parisian ateliers. These luxury brands have spread throughout the world into prêt-à-porter products, making Paris the Global Capital of Fashion.
Nowadays, Paris continues to be the home of many famous Fashion Houses, including Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton.
The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is the Trade Association in Paris that has the exclusive privilege to decide which design houses can be identified as haute couture.
Always reinventing style, this Paris nickname suggests the world continues to look to the city for guidance on being in-style and wearing the latest in fashion design.
The Lady of Iron (La Dame de Fer)
This nickname is less about the city and more about the looming tower that symbolizes the strength of Paris.
Also known as the Grande Dame, Belle Grande Dame, Grande Dame de Fer, the Eiffel Tower has had this nickname since its construction in 1889.
Standing 1,063 feet tall, this iconic structure is made of pure carbon-free iron, which, at the time, was the strongest material available—a symbol of strength and resistance.
Originally considered an eye-sore and often called the Iron Asparagus, the Eiffel Tower soon captured the imagination of Paris and the world.
Her delicate, curvilinear design on the four legs, with their lace-like, art-nouveau skirt, are juxtaposed against the robust and unmovable structure, standing powerful and defiant.
This awe-inspiring iron structure celebrated France’s industrial prowess of the time, and we continue to use this Parisian nickname even today.
There is only one other famous figure who has received this nickname: Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK.
Because of her seeming strength and inflexibility against critics, she was often called the Iron Lady, which was not always considered a complimentary nickname as opposed to the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s another Paris nickname that actually refers to the early inhabitants of Paris, not to the city itself.
As mentioned earlier, Parisii was the name of a prosperous Celtic tribe that lived in Gaul (Paris) from around 250-225 BC for only about two hundred years.
The Romans subsequently conquered them; however, the name of Paris survived and honors these original people who settled on the muddy banks of the Seine so many years ago.
There are other nicknames for a Parisian, as well. However, some are not so complimentary!
In other regions of the country, many citizens living outside of Paris have a favorite nickname to use when talking about the perceived pretentiousness or haughtiness of Parisians.
A well-known phrase and song, “Parisien, tête de chien; Parigot, tête de veau,” (Parisian dog’s head, Parisian calf’s head) is an expression used by many of the country people, and has become a slang nickname to describe Parisians who are thought to be rude, unpleasant, and snobbish.
This would absolutely not be a Paris nickname to use when talking with people in Paris!
This diverse list of Paris nicknames enlightens us about the culture, history, and personality of an extraordinary city, as well as her brand identity.
You can call her by any name you like, but at the end of the day “we’ll always have Paris” (Casa Blanca 1942).
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