10 Nicknames for San Francisco and the Stories Behind Them

5 min read

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A city skyline near a body of water on a sunny day
San Francisco is known for monikers based on its diverse culture and iconic landmarks

San Francisco is a unique city in Northern California, full of fascinating history and culture. San Franciscans take pride in their city and admire many things about it, like its world-famous landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

This rich history and culture have led to the creation of many nicknames for San Francisco. There's the simple SF, as well as more interesting names, like the Paris of the West. Whether locals still use them or not, these nicknames can tell you more about the city and its heritage.

You may have heard of some of these nicknames before, but with so many different ones, you're sure to learn something new. Keep reading to discover 10 San Francisco monikers, as well as their origins and uses today.

10 San Francisco Nicknames

An intricately designed circular structure with a dome top near a lagoon
The City That Knows How was coined by US President William Howard Taft

The City That Knows How

One nickname that showcases San Francisco's rich history is the City That Knows How. In 1911, President William Howard Taft chose San Francisco as the home of the future Panama Pacific Exposition. This world fair was organized to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.

He called San Francisco "the city that knows how," as he believed the exposition would thrive here. The project was a success, and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened to the public in February 1915.

Fog City

One of the more self-explanatory nicknames is Fog City, or the City of Fog, which is linked to the city's foggy weather. Since San Francisco is between the Pacific Ocean, which is cold, and the San Francisco Bay, which is warmer, it's the ideal location for fog formation. Fog is so present in the city that citizens have named it "Karl the Fog" and track it on social media!

City skyline near a body of water with boats on a cloudy day
'Frisco is one of the nicknames for San Francisco that has been around for decades


The San Francisco nickname 'Frisco may be the most disliked one. Its origin is heavily debated, but many people believe it started as a contraction of San Francisco in the 1800s.

The nickname became popular among those who lived outside of the city. San Franciscans disliked the name because they felt as though it didn't represent the city well, leading to a "Don't Call It 'Frisco" movement. Today, people generally use the nickname as a joke.

San Fran

One of the most popular nicknames for the city is a simple shortened version, San Fran. Despite its popularity among outsiders, it's another nickname that San Franciscans don't really like.

Locals seem to just call San Francisco, San Francisco, or "The City," which can be confusing when there are so many other cities around. So, if you want to sound like a local, you can skip this nickname.

A red suspension bridge surrounded by fog
Golden Gate City refers to the iconic San Francisco landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate City

One famous California landmark you've likely heard of is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, as it's often accredited as one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. The popularity of this iconic bridge led to the creation of the Golden Gate City nickname for San Francisco.

The bridge was built in 1933, so this nickname likely originated shortly thereafter. It's not really popular among locals, but tourists do use it.


Another nickname that's just a shortened version of the city's name is SF. Sometimes, SFC is also used. SF stands for San Francisco, while SFC stands for San Francisco City. SF is the more popular version of this nickname, though.

Other cities in America, like New York City or NYC, use these types of acronyms as a nickname as well. San Franciscans seem to approve of this nickname, as many businesses, like SFGate, use it in their name.

Whales swimming in the bay near a red bridge
The San Francisco Bay inspired the nickname of the City by the Bay

City by the Bay

City by the Bay is another of the self-explanatory nicknames for the city. One of the most popular landmarks in San Francisco is the San Francisco Bay, which covers the entire east side.

This isn't one of the more popular nicknames, but it's still used occasionally around the San Francisco Bay Area. It's also used quite frequently on the city's official tourism website.

The Golden City

You may think San Francisco is called the Golden City because of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's actually due to the California Gold Rush. Gold was first found in the region in 1848. A fun fact about California is that this discovery attracted more than 300,000 gold-seekers to the state from around the world.

Many went to San Francisco looking for gold, helping the city grow and leading to the creation of this San Francisco name. It's not as popular now, but it was throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Asif Islam/Shutterstock.com
The Paris of the West is one of the nicknames for San Francisco
Many architectural landmarks in San Francisco have French influences

The Paris of the West

Another nickname that the Gold Rush inspired is the Paris of the West. The Gold Rush attracted many immigrants from France. They settled around Commercial Street in San Francisco, leading it to be nicknamed French Street.

These immigrants brought French wine and fashion with them, influencing San Francisco's culture. This influence led to the creation of this nickname or the similar alternative, Paris of the Pacific. However, this isn't a well-used nickname anymore.


415 used to be the primary area code in San Francisco and Marin County, which people then used as a nickname for the city. Other North American cities use similar nicknames, like 416 or the 6 for Toronto.

Since 415 was the primary area code for 66 years, the city ran out of available numbers in 2015. Therefore, the area code 628 was added. In turn, this decreased the popularity of the 415 nickname.

In Summary

Since San Francisco has such a rich history, there's so much to learn about the city. Hopefully, this article taught you something new that you can share with your family and friends.

Maybe this will even inspire you to visit San Francisco yourself to see some of the landmarks that inspired these nicknames, like the Golden Gate Bridge. Just remember to avoid calling San Francisco 'Frisco if you want to look like a local.

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Written by Rebecca Low

rebeccalow WRITER After travelling around the world and living abroad in Spain and Singapore, freelance writer and editor Rebecca has settled down in her hometown, Toronto, to write about her unique travel experiences.

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