14 Nicknames for Portland, Oregon, and the Reasons for Them

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A bridge over a river near city skyscrapers
Portland has many nicknames, all with interesting origins

Portland, Oregon, is the largest city by population in the state of Oregon. As the most famous city in the state (although not the capital), you'll hear no shortage of nicknames for Portland, Oregon.

The town gets called everything from its official title, the City of Roses, to the more obscure (and not necessarily valid anymore) City of Churches. And while it's not the official nickname, PDX is probably the most recognized beyond Portland, especially for the seven million travelers flying in and out of the city annually.

If you want to discover more about all the monikers for this West Coast city, keep reading! In this article, you will learn all about 14 Portland nicknames, the reasons for them, and how commonly they're used throughout the city and in popular culture.

14 Portland Nicknames

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A building with glass panels and a sign saying "Portland International Airport"
PDX is the official airport code of Portland International Airport

PDX

Few nicknames are used more frequently to refer to Portland than PDX. Sure, it's short and quick to type. But that's not entirely it: the PDX nickname has a long-running significance to the city.

So why is Portland called PDX? It's because PDX is the official airport code of Portland International Airport. Initially just PD, the code was expanded to PDX as airports changed from two-letter codes to three in the 1930s.

It's also an easy way to differentiate the city from Portland, Maine (which Portland, Oregon, was named after). The PDX nickname is so well associated with the area that even Portland State University uses the domain PDX.edu.

Biketown

Portland earned the nickname Biketown because of the large number of cyclists on the streets. The city even has the distinction of hosting the largest World Naked Bike Ride every summer.

Biketown is also the name for the City of Portland's official bicycle-sharing program. The Biketown program, launched in 2016, is a partnership with Nike, headquartered in the Portland suburb of Beaverton.

Although the number of people bicycling has decreased in recent years, it is still a popular mode of transportation for many area residents. In fact, Portland is often considered one of the most bikeable cities in the United States.

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The City of Roses is one of the well-known nicknames for Portland, Oregon
Portland, or the City of Roses, is home to the International Rose Test Garden

The City of Roses

The City of Roses, sometimes denoted as Rose City, has been the official nickname for Portland since 2003. But this nickname dates all the way back to 1888 when it was first uttered by visitors to an Episcopal Church convention impressed with how well roses flourish in the city.

The Portland Rose Society was founded the following year, in 1889. The City of Roses nickname gained further popularity when 20 miles of Portland streets were lined with rosebushes in anticipation of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.

The Portland Rose Festival began in 1907, still held annually to this day, and the International Rose Test Garden remains the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States.

City of Churches

One of the oldest nicknames for Portland, the City of Churches, originated in the late 19th century. The Sunday Oregonian newspaper first designated Portland as the City of Churches in 1899.

The paper, whose headline read, "Portland's Churches and Churchgoers," compared the Oregon city to Brooklyn, New York, which also boasts the City of Churches nickname. According to the November 12th, 1899 article, visitors to Portland would see "steeples pointing heavenward" all throughout the town.

Although the City of Churches nickname is still used on occasion, it doesn't really fit the area in modern times. Today, Portland has fewer churches than most other major cities in the United States.

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A woman standing before a map near a large wooden barrel printed with a beer logo
Portland is also known as Beervana due to its many local breweries

Beervana

Perhaps the most thirst-quenching and certainly one of the top funny Portland nicknames, Beervana, references the popularity of craft beer culture throughout the city. The nickname is a combination of the words "beer" and "nirvana."

Official estimates put the number of breweries in Portland at around 70. But you'll find beer-related festivals happening in the city throughout most of the year, from Oregon Craft Beer Month in February to the Oregon Brewers Festival every July.

But few annual events highlight Portland's status as a Beervana quite as much as the 10-day Portland Beer Week, which celebrates local breweries every June.

Silicon Forest

Used as a nod to California's Silicon Valley, the Silicon Forest nickname refers to Portland's high-tech industrial corridor between the western suburbs of Hillsboro and Beaverton. Unlike Silicon Valley, which sees software and platform innovations, Silicon Forest primarily focuses on hardware development and manufacturing.

Portland has been a high-tech hotspot since the 1940s, with the Silicon Forest nickname first used in the 1980s. Numerous high-tech companies have campuses around Portland's Silicon Forest, with some of the most recognizable names including Intel, Google, Microsoft, and Xerox.

A low-angle shot of a lion statue near an intricately-design archway
Portland has been dubbed the Forbidden City of the West due to the Shanghai Tunnels

Forbidden City of the West

Portland became known as the Forbidden City of the West in the 1800s. The Asian-inspired Portland nickname refers to Beijing's Forbidden City palace complex. It originates mainly from the tunnels running underneath Portland.

The Old Portland Underground is a series of tunnels running throughout historic Portland, primarily under Old Town Chinatown connecting the neighborhood to the Willamette River waterfront. These corridors were nicknamed the Shanghai Tunnels because they were allegedly used to transport "Shanghaied" sailors, people tricked or forced into servitude on a ship by boarding masters.

The practice of Shanghaiing was officially outlawed in 1915. However, both the Shanghai Tunnels and the Forbidden City of the West nickname persist.

P-Town

Another common abbreviation of Portland, similar to the PDX moniker, P-Town, has been part of the local lexicon since the 1990s. While it has yet to gain the international recognition of airport-inspired PDX, P-Town remains a common way for locals to distinguish Portland in casual conversation or writing.

However, Portland is one of many municipalities to claim the P-Town nickname. The term is frequently used to describe other P-starting cities like Provincetown, MA, and Puyallup, WA, as well as smaller towns throughout the United States and even internationally.

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An art installation of a weaved mask in front of a stadium facade
Portland has a long history of being a soccer-loving city

Soccer City, USA

Portlanders love the sport of soccer. So much so that Portland has been referred to as Soccer City, USA ever since 1975 when the original Portland Timbers joined the North American Soccer League (NASL). Brazilian soccer legend Pelé was even famously photographed at Soccer Bowl '77 in Portland in front of a sign reading, "Welcome to Soccer City, USA."

Even though the NASL is long gone, Portland's soccer scene is still alive and kicking. Today, the modern iteration of the Portland Timbers is a Major League Soccer (MLS) club that won the MLS Cup in 2015.

Soccer City, USA, is also home to the world-class Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). The Thorns are three-time NWSL champions, bringing the title home to Portland in 2013, 2017, and 2022.

Stumptown

Stumptown is one of the oldest nicknames for Portland. In fact, it's one of the ways that early settlers referred to the area. So why is Portland called Stumptown?

The nickname comes from the countless stumps left behind while clearing land for the city in the mid-1800s. So many trees were cut down in such a short period that there simply wasn't the labor power to remove them all.

Stumptown was such a fitting nickname that Oregon businessman John C. Ainsworth noted that, at the time, Portland had "more stumps than trees."

A bridge over a river near city skyscrapers
Portland was dubbed as Bridge City due to the 12 bridges along the Willamette River

Bridge City

While the origin of some Portland nicknames may be inconspicuous, Bridge City (as well as Bridgetown) is about as straightforward as they come. You guessed it: the Bridge City nickname comes from the 12 bridges which stretch across the Willamette River.

Bisecting Portland into eastern and western sections, the Willamette River has played an essential role since the city's founding. Today, the waterscape is lined with a dozen scenic bridges. From the Steel Bridge, built in 1912, to the modern Tilikum Crossing, opened in 2015, a short drive along the Willamette will leave no question that Portland is the Bridge City!

Rip City

Why is Portland called Rip City? That's a good question that even the man who came up with the phrase doesn't have an answer to. The nickname Rip City was first used by Bill Schonely, announcer for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, during the team's inaugural season in 1971.

In a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Trail Blazers guard Jim Barnett made a surprising long-distance shot that brought the team back into contention, to which Schonely shouted out, "Rip City, baby!" Schonely has said that even he's unsure what he meant by the phrase. Nonetheless, the nickname has stuck ever since.

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A copper statue of a woman carrying a trident
The Portlandia statue inspired one of the nicknames for Portland, Oregon, Portlandia

Portlandia

Often mistakenly attributed to the 2010s television show of the same title, the Portlandia nickname originated in 1985. That's the year the Portlandia statue was installed in front of Downtown's Portland Building.

Designed after Lady Commerce, the female figure depicted on Portland's official city seal, the Portlandia statue is one of the most visited landmarks in Portland. It's also the second-biggest copper repoussé statue in the country, ranking behind only the Statue of Liberty.

Puddletown

Like many communities in the Pacific Northwest, Portland is no stranger to rainy weather. In fact, it gets so wet here that the city has gained the nickname of Puddletown. This moniker references the 36 inches of average annual rainfall in Portland.

While the city remains wet throughout most of the year, Portland really becomes a Puddletown during the peak rainy season from November to January. If you want to plan a trip and avoid this wet weather, the summer is the best time to visit Portland, Oregon

In Summary

Some Portland, Oregon nicknames are simple to understand. Biketown makes sense, especially since Portland is one of the most bikeable cities in the country. Then there's Bridge City, the origin of which is apparent after one look at the Willamette River.

But you've probably learned a few new nicknames from this article, more obscure monikers like the Forbidden City of the West. Or maybe the sport-centric Rip City, while albeit a popular nickname (primarily related to the Portland Trail Blazers), even the man who invented it has no idea what it means!

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Written by Jonathan Davis

JDavis WRITER Jonathan is a Florida-based travel writer who can't seem to stay in one place for long. With more than two decades of trips under his belt, Jonathan has a wealth of information to share about travel within the United States and abroad.


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