After living in Portland for more than 20 years, it’s safe to say I’ve heard my fair share of unique Portland nicknames.
Some have impressed me, others surprised me and a handful felt like real head scratchers. If you find yourself new to Portland, I’d like to share a handful of Portland nicknames you’re bound to come across.
So without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of the most common Portland nicknames and the meanings behind them. I hope you enjoy!
#1. Why Is Portland Called the City of Roses? (or Rose City)
This is the official nickname of Portland (apparently that’s a thing). The climate in Portland creates the perfect condition for growing roses. The founder of the Portland Rose Society became obsessed with roses and, as a result, there are over 200 miles of rose-lined streets in Portland. Impressive!
What’s more, the Portland Rose Garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose garden in America. It has more than 10,000 rose bushes spanning over 650 varieties.
The history of the rose garden is equally as fascinating. Originally started in 1915 by Jesse Currey, (an Oregon Journal editor and rose hobbyist), the rose garden was created in an effort to preserve roses susceptible to destruction during World War I.
Thankfully both the roses and interesting Portland nickname stuck around.
#2. Why is Portland Called Bridge City?
This is a straightforward Portland nickname! Portland is known as Bridge City because there’s so many bridges around, it’s like we can’t stop building them.
There’s twelve bridges that span the Willamette River: Steel Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Tilikum Crossing Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Fremont Bridge and Marquam Bridge.
These bridges have earned Portland the apt moniker of Bridge City (or the lesser known Portland nickname of Bridgetown).
These bridges are so beloved that you’ll find them all over Portland paraphernalia.
#3. Why is Portland Called RIP City?
This Portland nicknames is actually a fluke, which is surprising because it’s stuck around for so long. The moniker was born during Trail Blazers game where during an impressive score an announcer excitedly cried out “RIP City!” and the name has stuck since.
You’ll see “RIP City” on anything that pertains to the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s all over mugs, shirts, socks, you name it.
Our love for the local team is part loyalty and part obligation. Our one (and only) NBA Championship occurred in the 70s. Eh, can’t win them all, but at least we won the cool Portland nickname!
#4. Why is Portland called Stumptown?
In the mid-1800s Portland started to grow and expand like wildfire, so the heavily-forested land had to be cleared. As we know, stumps are a bear to remove, so a lot of them were left untouched. What do you call a city full of stumps as far as the eye can see? Stumptown.
And thus, Portland’s moniker Stumptown was born. For those that love coffee, this is where Stumptown Coffee got its name.
#5. Why is Portland called PDX?
For folks that don’t live in a city with an international airport, it may seem strange to hear residents refer to their hometown by the airport call sign.
Yet here in Portland we often refer to ourselves as PDX. But it makes sense when you think about it because Portlanders LOVE their airport — it’s not uncommon to see folks decked out in vintage PDX carpet gear.
#6. Why is Portland called Portlandia?
Originally, this nickname stemmed from the iconic Portlandia Statue that sits atop the Portland Building. However, the better-known reason for the popularity of this Portland nickname is the (somewhat?) popular show Portlandia.
The Portlandia Statue may look familiar to Portlandia fans because it’s featured in the show’s opening credits. But few know that it is the second largest copper statue in America — second only to the Statue of Liberty!
In my experience, this is not a common nickname for Portland amongst locals.
#7. Why is Portland called Little Beirut?
How did this Portland nickname come about? It’s history lesson time, folks.
Whenever George H.W. Bush would visit Portland protests were bound ensue. As such, staff from his administration used to refer to Portland as Little Beirut. Something most Portlanders would be proud of to this day, I’m sure.
The writer Chuck Palahniuk says Portland “anarchists” during this time gathered outside the downtown Hilton Hotel whenever presidents came to town. They ate potatoes dyed with food coloring and “then, when the motorcade arrived, drank Syrup of Ipecac and puked big Red, White and Blue barf puddles all over the hotel.”
Now how’s that for keeping Portland weird?
#8. Newest Portland Nickname: Silicon Forest
Did you know that Portland’s tech-industry boom has earned it a new nickname? Enter Silicon Forest.
Portland has a lot of big name businesses in town, especially athletic/outdoor realtors like Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, Keen and Columbia.
But that’s not all, Intel and Daimler have homes here as well. Honestly, there’s so many large companies that have headquarters in Portland. If you’d like to know about Portland’s largest employers, read this helpful article.
Nicknames for Portland
In sum, these are the most common Portland nicknames:
- City of Roses/Rose City
- Bridge City
- RIP City
- Little Beirut
- Silicon Forest
Fun fact about Portland’s name
Heads or tails? Most Portlanders already know this, but just in case you don’t, here’s the story:
The founders of Portland, Oregon were two settlers from New England. One from Boston, Massachusetts and the other from Portland, Maine. Both settlers wanted to name the city after their respective home towns and decided to settle for a coin toss – the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of Portland, Maine, did you know that the two Portlands lie at practically identical latitudes? Portland, Oregon lies at a latitude of 45:30, and Portland, Maine lies at a latitude of 43:40.
Here’s 20+ interesting facts about Portland, if you’d like to read.
Well, there you have it. A quick list of Portland nicknames and the meanings behind them. There’s definitely more that could be added to the list, but hey, you won’t hear those often.
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Until next time,