11 Nicknames for St. Louis and the History Behind Them

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Buildings and a large arch structure near a body of water
The stunning nature spots and landmarks of St. Louis are the basis of some nicknames

St. Louis is one of the most well-known cities in Missouri and is located along the world-famous Mississippi River. The city is home to many well-known attractions, like the Gateway Arch, the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, and Busch Stadium. This area also has a fascinating history, being one of the most important cities in the country in the 19th century and a gateway to Westward Expansion.

You may also be interested to learn that there are numerous nicknames for St. Louis. Some monikers relate to the city's past, while others are inspired by the area's present-day culture. If you want to find out more about these nicknames and the stories behind them, keep reading for 11 alternate names for St. Louis.

11 St. Louis Nicknames

Some nicknames for St. Louis, like Fourth City, have existed for decades
For quite some time, St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the US

Fourth City

One of the historical monikers for St. Louis is the Fourth City. This name was developed in the late 19th century due to St. Louis being the fourth largest city in the country based on population. St. Louis was the fourth largest in 1870, 1900, and 1910.

It was also the fifth largest in 1890. However, the city began to fall down the ranks, and by 1970, the area had dropped out of the top 10 cities for population. Therefore, the name isn't used anymore except when discussing past eras in the city.

Lion of the Valley

One of the fascinating alternate names for St. Louis is Lion of the Valley. It relates to the city's historical prominence as a large and economically important city, mirroring how a lion holds an important place in their territory. The valley part simply refers to the fact that the city sits in the Mississippi River Valley, which is its "territory."

The name fell out of use as other cities in the country overtook St. Louis in terms of size and economic importance. However, the name is still recognizable by many residents and is used in historical contexts.

A tall archway and cherry blossom trees in the foreground
Gateway to the West is a St. Louis name related to Westward Expansion in the 1800s

Gateway to the West

Gateway to the West is a well-known nickname for St. Louis. This is another historical name that relates to Westward Expansion in the 1800s. Many people traveling west passed through the area, often stopping in St. Louis for supplies and the like. This was because it was the last big and established city they would encounter on their journey.

An interesting Missouri fact is that over one hundred years later, a landmark was constructed in St. Louis to commemorate Westward Expansion. Inaugurated in 1967, the Gateway Arch is now the city's most famous landmark and has kept the Gateway to the West nickname relevant.

Mound City

Mound City is another quite well-known name relating to the early years of St. Louis. The area that is now St. Louis was previously home to Native American tribes, and during prehistoric times, there were many Native American mounds.

These included the Cahokia Mound, which is now a famous Missouri landmark. Due to these numerous mounds, settlers nicknamed the region Mound City, and the name has remained known in the St. Louis area centuries later.

An inland river port with white tents and a sign saying "Riverboat Cruises"
St. Louis' location near the Mississippi River boosted the trade economy in the past

River City

River City is a name that relates to St. Louis' location along the Mississippi River. This riverside location helped the city grow, predominantly by being an important trade and transport route in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Today, the river is less crucial to trade and the city's economy. However, it remains a much-loved landmark, and St. Louis residents still take pride in being a scenic River City.

Rome of the West

Another St. Louis nickname with historical roots is Rome of the West. This moniker dates back to the early days of St. Louis when it drew many comparisons to Rome.

Things like the area's architecture and cultural and educational pursuits somewhat mimicked those of the Italian capital city. The Archdiocese of St. Louis was often given the name as well. This was due to it being the Catholic archdiocese for half of the United States in the 19th century.

Today, the name isn't used much except in historical contexts. In fact, there's a good chance that even locals wouldn't recognize it.

Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com
A replica of a tall chess pawn beside a large chess board in front of a building
St. Louis is called the Chess Capital of the World

The Chess Capital of the World

One of the most interesting nicknames associated with St. Louis is the Chess Capital of the World. While places like Eastern Europe long held the title, St. Louis' chess scene has made it a contender in recent years.

The city has its own chess club, the Saint Louis Chess Club, and hosts the U.S. Chess Championship. Additionally, the World Chess Hall of Fame has been located in St. Louis since 2011. Many up-and-coming chess stars are associated with the city as well. With the vast success of the chess community in the city, it's not surprising that it's becoming known as the sport's capital!

The Gateway City

As mentioned, the Gateway Arch is one of the most famous landmarks in St. Louis. The prominence of the landmark has led to another St. Louis name, the Gateway City. As with the Gateway to the West nickname, this moniker also relates to the city's position as a gateway to new frontiers during the Westward Expansion period.

Today, this is one of the most well-known names for the city among residents and visitors. Many articles about St. Louis and promotional materials feature this slogan, often next to an image of the renowned Gateway Arch.

A water fountain in front of a large park during fall
Some nicknames for St. Louis are simply shortened variations, like the Lou

The Lou

The Lou is a newer nickname that appeared around 2008 and became popular among some locals. It's simply a shortened way of referring to St. Louis.

The moniker is mainly used in casual conversation and on social media but has begun to appear in some marketing efforts for the city and local businesses. However, some residents really don't like the name. Many say it's too similar to the colloquial way British people refer to the bathroom.

St. Lou

Similar to the Lou, St. Lou is just a shortened way of saying St. Louis. It's also used mainly in casual conversation and online. While some residents prefer this moniker to the more controversial the Lou, others hardly ever use it.

A tall archway near buildings, a park, and an American flag
The STL is another nickname used casually by locals


The STL is another of the few nicknames that are just an abbreviated version of the full city name. This nickname keeps the "St" part of the name and adds the "L" of "Louis."

As with other abbreviations, it's used in casual conversation and is also seen in some local business names. For example, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also goes by STLToday, using that name for its website URL and social media handles.

In Conclusion

Having read this article, you'll now be able to easily answer the question: "What is St. Louis' nickname?" You also should have seen that this interesting Missouri city doesn't have just one alternate name but 11!

These nicknames link to the area's history, modern-day culture, most famous attractions, and more. You may even have been inspired to plan a trip to the beautiful Gateway City.

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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