18 Detroit Nicknames That Will Surprise You

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A city skyline next to the water under a blue sky with white clouds
Detroit has many nicknames associated with its history and industry contributions

Located along the Detroit River in Wayne County is the largest city in Michigan, Detroit. The name "Detroit" comes from the French word for "Strait," and is in reference to what the French called the Detroit River, "le détroit du Lac Érié," which means "the strait of Lake Erie."

The city is predominantly known for its automotive industry and its role in putting the world on wheels. However, Detroit has had an extremely influential role in other industries as well, such as music, film, and even military weaponry production.

Because of its influence in multiple industries, there have been interesting nicknames for the city that have arisen over the past years. This article dives into the history and reasoning behind the slogans that are rooted in the city, some of these Detroit nicknames may even surprise you.

18 Nicknames for Detroit

Detroit Nicknames Video

Check out our highlights video of Detroit nicknames.

Skyscrapers near a body of water on a bright day
The Renaissance City nickname attests to Detroit's efforts to boost its image

The Renaissance City

The Renaissance City was originally coined in the 1990s as a push to revive the city's image in the public eye. Detroit had been facing turmoil due to high crime and unemployment rates, so passionate Detroiters fought against its downward spiral. Thus, the nickname came to fruition.

Another note to mention is the iconic Renaissance Center, which has become a main staple in Detroit's skyline. This building was constructed to reflect Detroit's up-and-coming image as a main player in the entrepreneurial and business environments.

Arsenal of Democracy

During World War II, Detroit contributed heavily to the Allied power's success. The city came together to handle the production of weapons, vehicles of war, and other necessary battle equipment that was used overseas.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term the Arsenal of Democracy during one of his Fireside Chat broadcasts. Because of the valiant effort and patriotism of the city of Detroit, it became one of the parts of the United States that the name was connected to.

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A white and blue house with signs saying "Motown Museum" and "Hitsville USA"
Motown is one of the iconic Detroit nicknames based on Motown Records


Motown Records was the origin of one of the most famous Detroit city nicknames, Motown. This record company was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation by Barry Cordy in 1960 and has been an influential part of many legendary performers' careers. Just a few of these individuals include Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder.

The name Motown was originally a mix of "Motor" and "Town" as an ode to the city's booming automotive industry. If you want to learn more about the history of this nickname and music genre, visit the Motown Museum, a famous Michigan landmark in Detroit.

Motor City

As many know, Detroit is a leader in the nation's automobile industry. The pioneer in this was Henery Ford, who built the first assembly plant in the area in the 20th century. Ford Motor Company's innovation arguably changed the entire course of transportation and the production of cars.

The Henry Ford Museum of Innovation is a popular Detroit landmark that dives into this deep historical background in the automotive industry. Ever since Detroit has been known as the Motor City to locals as well as people from all over the world.

A structure in the middle of an open concrete area near buildings and skyscrapers
Many automotive companies are based in Detroit

Automotive Capital of the World

Detroit's Ford Motor Company made history when building the moving assembly line into car manufacturing. This ground-shattering innovation earned Detroit the title of Automotive Capital of the World.

An interesting fact about Michigan is that this made Detroit the center of the car industry for many years. Though the city has faced many challenges over the years, such as unemployment, poverty, and crime. The perseverance shows both the triumph and tragedy of the nation's automotive industry, which is recognized on an international scale.

Startup City

Since the early 1900s, Detroit has boasted the Detroit name of the Startup City. Many companies have called Detroit home and have transformed the city into a tech hub.

The lively startup community is nationally known as well, and Detroit has been recognized as a top emerging startup ecosystem. This influx of startup companies also creates jobs for the locals and boosts the economy.

A river between a park and an urban area with skyscrapers in the background
Throughout the years, Detroit has had notable successes and industrial developments

City of Reinvention

Detroit has had a history full of success and tragedy. From industrial booms to crashes, the city has made a name for itself in the United States. In recent years, large companies and investors have been reinvesting their money back into the city in hopes of "reviving" it once again.

The City of Reinvention reflects on this rejuvenation of life in Detroit. From new businesses, transportation systems, and much more, the city is reinventing itself yet again.

The D

As one of the most popular Detroit slogans, the D was first introduced in the 1920s. This is when the baseball team, the Detroit Tigers, added a letter D on their uniforms.

This has since become a well-known symbol, especially to local sports fans. The D has also been used in media outreach for sports and in marketing campaigns. If you are from Detroit, you likely have grown up with this nickname ingrained in your mind as a symbol of Detroit.

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A park with a lawn, trees, and an artificial lake under a cloudy sky
Detroit is also known as the City of Trees due to its urban green spaces

City of Trees

Whether you are walking along the Detroit Riverside or sitting in a beautiful park, there is no shortage of trees in the city. Territorial Judge Augustus Woodward was the man responsible for the planning of greenery along the streets. He designed the boulevards to be tree-lined and spacious.

"Woodward" is now one of the main streets that connect suburbs to the city, named after the man who implemented the tree-lined avenues. Thus, Detroit can often be referred to as the City of Trees.

The Murder City

The Murder City refers to the darker side of crime and violence in Detroit's history. This name came about in the 1970s when over 700 murders occurred in the city in one year.

Many outsiders believe that Detroit is a dangerous place, and in some neighborhoods, this is true. Even though select Detroit neighborhoods still have a high crime rate, this fact does not speak for the entirety of the city. There have been major pushes from political leaders, businesses, and law enforcement to reshape Detroit's broader image.

Aerial shot of an urban city on a cloudy day
Detroit is called America's Comeback City as it has reinvented itself multiple times

America's Comeback City

Detroit has been through a lot of change in recent years. Many know the city as full of crime and poverty. However, the unemployment and poverty rates have dropped as new life is being brought into the city.

This revival has earned the Detroit nickname America's Comeback City. There is a new sense of hope in Detroit that has proven a comeback is more than possible.

The Paris of the Midwest

The Paris of the Midwest refers to Detroit's foundational French influence. In the late 19th century, Detroit was built as a flashy, prosperous city. It had trading ports along lakes such as Lake Huron. This reflected what was built in Paris, thus, the nickname was born.

After World War I, the city took a deep spiral downward, and the "fancy" French undertones became less prominent in the region. This name is not used often, but it does have an interesting history.

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A bronze statue of a man holding a flag in a park with tall buildings behind
Daytwa is what Detroit was called when the city was owned by the French


The original pronunciation of Detroit was Daytwa. This originated when France owned Detroit. This is a less common nickname used to reference the city. It serves more as a homage to Detroit's humble beginnings and its cultural influences.

Detroit Rock City

Although most people know Detroit as the city that put the world on wheels, it is also very famous for its music. From Motown's influential productions to the underground electronic music scene, there has not been a shortage of vibrant tunes in the city.

Rock 'n' Roll has also been heavily influenced by Detroit's roots. The famous hard rock group, Kiss, released a song in 1976 titled "Detroit Rock City". Thus, the term Detroit Rock City was coined as a slogan.

A facade of a building entrance with two sculptures of tigers on top
The nickname Tiger Town was based on a film shot in Detroit about the Detroit Tigers

Tiger Town

Another nickname for Detroit is Tiger Town, which refers to the 1983 American film Tiger Town. The film is about baseball players on the Detroit Tigers team, and much of the film was actually shot on location in Tiger Stadium.

Much like any city, sports connect the city of Detroit. The Detroit Tigers play a crucial role in this sense of community both on film and in reality.

Hitsville, USA

The first headquarters and recording studio of Motown Records was given the nickname Hitsville USA, and this moniker is now used for the whole of Detroit.

Due to the label's immense success, Gordy relocated its headquarters to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. However, the original location has since been converted into a museum that showcases its profound legacy in the music industry.

Barbara Kalbfleisch/Shutterstock.com
Hockeytown is one of the Detroit nicknames alluded to its love for sports
Detroit City has a thriving hockey scene and, thus, is also called Hockeytown


The slogan Hockeytown is used in relation to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. There is no doubt that Detroit is the hockey capital of Michigan. Fans from far and wide flock to watch these lively hockey games in the heart of the city.

While other cities across the United States and Canada use the name Hockeytown or Hockey Town, Detroit has it trademarked! That is when it's combined with the team's red and white wing logo.

The 313

313 is the area code used in Detroit and surrounding suburbs. Popular artists, such as Eminem, have referred to Detroit as the "313" in songs and in film. The nickname is mainly used amongst locals who reside in Detroit, but those who live in the suburbs may refer to their home as the 313 as well.


Nicknames are used to establish identity, unify a community, and define an image. They can spread pride amongst locals or even sometimes be the butt-end of a joke about a city.

Detroit has many nicknames, from the renowned Motor City to the infamous Murder City. There is no doubt that Detroit has greatly influenced the nation's economy and cultural identities. No matter the name you use to refer to Detroit, the sense of comradery amongst true Detroiters is absolutely contagious.

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Written by Catrina Guenther

catrinaguenther FORMER WRITER Cat is a Michigan-based writer who has a passion for travel. When she is not planning her next adventure, you can find her riding horses, going for a run, or working on one of her small businesses.

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