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10 nicknames for Louisville

No matter how you say it, there are more ways than one to refer to Louisville.

A black and white photo depicts a riverfront sign that says, "The Gateway to the South Louisville"

It’s not quite a Gateway Arch, but this sign welcomed southward travelers to Louisiville in the early 20th century. It was approximately located where the KFC Yum! Center is today.

You don’t always go by your full name, do you? If that were the case, this article would be written by Jeffrey Milby, not Jeff. Well, the city of Louisville is no different with its fair share of alternative tags that each speak to the city’s character in their own way.

We’ve rounded up 10 Louisville nicknames. Plus, we’re taking a peek at Google’s NGram viewer — which tracks the popularity of phrases in published books over time — to help us determine when some of these names might have been in vogue.

Derby City

This nickname needs very little explanation, especially this time of year. The first Kentucky Derby took off in 1875, and shortly thereafter the horse race became the most prestigious in the US — and maybe the world — eventually making Louisville synonymous with it. According to Google, the phrase “Derby City” peaked in popularity in 1995.

Falls City

You don’t need to look very far in Louisville to find evidence of this nickname. There’s the Falls City Soccer Club, Falls City Eye Care, Falls City Community Bike Works, Falls City Lumber, and, perhaps most famously, Falls City Brewing. The beer-maker originally operated from 1905 to 1978, and was revived in the late 2000s.

The name derives from the Falls of the Ohio, which played a role in Louisville’s development by forcing Ohio River travelers to come ashore in order to avoid them. According to Google, the nickname was most popular around 1914.

Gateway to the South

While St. Louis is famously the “Gateway to the West,” Louisville is less famously known as America’s southern gateway city — we just don’t have a big ol’ arch to show for it. Louisville did, however, have a large electric sign brightly announcing that nickname over the Ohio River in the first half of the 20th Century. Google says this nickname peaked in popularity in the 1910s.

River City

Louisville isn’t the only city that lays claim to this moniker. While LOU is home to River City Bank and the city’s public transit operator is the Transit Authority of River City — aka TARC — this one is hardly a unique handle. At least 23 different American cities can be referred to as “River City,” including Richmond, VA and San Antonio, TX.

Two women walk through rings meant to look like a bourbon barrel.

Bourbon is so synonymous with Louisville that the city incorporates barrell imagery into its public art, like this installment that looks like a bourbon barrel at 4th and Main.

Photo courtesy Louisville Tourism

Bourbon City

Louisville’s distilleries bring in a lot of bourbon tourism — or should we say ‘Bourbonism’ — and that’s made the city synonymous with America’s native spirit. According to Google, the popularity of this name peaked in the 1890s but had a resurgence in 1998, and that makes a ton of sense — it’s right around the time the modern bourbon boom got its start.

Possibility City

Real ones remember. Part of a marketing campaign for the city in the early 2000s, Possibility City attempted to capitalize on the merger between the old City of Louisville and Jefferson County in 2003. Bonus: The website for the campaign is still active.

The ‘Ville

Who remembers the UofL silos? It’s been 10 years since they were demolished. Once upon a time, they were home to a sign that referred to The ‘Ville as, “The best college sports town in America.” Several Cardinal sports teams have sported the nickname on their jerseys over the years, too.

The 502

Who doesn’t love referring to their hometown by the area code? Looking at you, 608today. Established in 1947, the 502 area code originally covered all of Kentucky. So you really can say the 502 owns the Bluegrass State. Google says this nickname was most popular in 1975.

City of Beautiful Churches

This is one of Louisville’s lesser-known nicknames, but according to reports, it is one of Louisville’s alternative titles. And why not? We’ve got more than a few scenic views around houses of worship.

Glitter Ball City

You can think local author + tour guide David Dominé for this one. It refers to Louisville’s place as the leader in disco ball manufacturing.

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