15 Pittsburgh Nicknames and the History Behind Them

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A city skyline and two yellow bridges next to a river under a blue sky
Pittsburgh has an array of nicknames, all with interesting and unique origins

While once primarily recognized for its iron and steel industries, Pittsburgh has developed greatly over the last few decades. It has become known for its scenic outdoor spaces, many galleries, unique attractions, and fantastic sporting events featuring much-loved teams.

Due to this varied history and rich cultural heritage, many nicknames for the city have come about. While you'll probably have heard of Pittsburgh nicknames like Steel City and the City of Bridges, this article also covers many interesting but lesser-known monikers.

For example, do you know why Pittsburgh was once called Hell With the Lid Taken Off? Or how it got the name the Only City With an Entrance? To find out, continue reading for 15 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nicknames and the reasonings behind them.

15 Nicknames for Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Nicknames Video

Check out our highlights video of Pittsburgh nicknames.

One of many popular Pittsburgh nicknames is City of Bridges
The City of Bridges is one of many well-known Pittsburgh nicknames

City of Bridges

One thing you'll notice when visiting Pittsburgh is that it has a lot of bridges! Notably, a fun Pennsylvania fact is that Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the United States, giving it the name City of Bridges.

There are approximately 446 bridges throughout the city, including well-known ones like the Fort Pitt Bridge and the Smithfield Street Bridge, which is one of the oldest in the city.

Benigno Numine

The phrase Benigno Numine features on the city flag, also known as the Great Seal of the City of Pittsburgh. It translates to "By the Favour of the Heavens" or "With the Benevolent Deity."

This phrase was first featured on city seals in 1816. While it hasn't always been on the seal, it was added again in 1950 and remains in use. It isn't greatly used as a nickname but is recognizable by locals as a motto of the city.

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An open yellow stadium near trees and a body of water
Blitzburgh is a name first used by Pittsburgh Steeler fans in the 1990s


Pittsburgh is known for its love of its sports teams, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers. Due to this, there are many Pittsburgh names relating to sports, like Blitzburgh.

This name is used a lot among Steelers fans and was created in reference to a 3-4 zone blitz, which was developed in the 1990s and has been used since.

Dirty 'Burgh

Pittsburgh has long been associated with the steel industry and was the largest steel producer in the world for many years. Due to this, the air in the city was often heavily polluted, leading to the nickname Dirty 'Burgh.

Locals would even joke that if you went out wearing white, you would come home with black clothes due to all the soot and other pollutants in the air! This moniker isn't used that much these days as the air quality has improved dramatically, but it's still well-known by locals.

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A large hockey puck sculpture with a penguin image and a "#Lets Go Pens" sign
Pittsburgh's sports teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, have won many championships

City of Champions

Another nickname relating to Pittsburgh's sporting success is City of Champions. The city's Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team has won six Super Bowl Championships, which is the joint-most of any team in the league. The Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team has won five Stanley Cup titles, which is joint-top for non-Original Six teams.

Additionally, the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB team has won five World Series Championships. All of these titles led to the creation of the City of Champions nickname.

Hell With the Lid Taken Off

Another nickname for Pittsburgh related to the steel industry is Hell With the Lid Taken Off. As steel production was so prevalent in the 1800s and early 1900s, the city was filled with smoke, and you could even see fires from steel and iron furnaces.

In 1868, writer James Parton called Pittsburgh "hell with the lid taken off" in an article on the city, and it stuck, much to the dismay of residents. Today, the city is much different, with significantly less pollution than in its prime steel production days, making the moniker one of the past.

A city skyline and yellow bridges by a body of water under a blue sky with clouds
Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of three rivers, hence the River City nickname

River City

Pittsburgh is somewhat unique to other US cities in that it sits at the confluence of three rivers. These rivers are the Monongahela River and the Allegheny River, and the Ohio River (which the former two join into).

Many consider these rivers Pittsburgh landmarks, and you can enjoy views of them from many parts of the city. Because of these natural landmarks, Pittsburgh has another nickname, River City.

Iron City

Ironworking was another thriving industry in Pittsburgh in the 1700s and 1800s, leading to the moniker Iron City. Slowly, ironworking decreased, and the name became less relevant. However, Iron City still has some prominence in the city due to the Iron City Brewing Company, which has been based in the area since 1861.

Rusty steel mills under a cloudy sky
Pittsburgh is best known for its steel production, gaining it the name Steel City

Steel City

Steel City is one of the most well-known names for Pittsburgh. As with other nicknames, it relates to the city's steel industry and also has ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's not certain when this nickname was first used, but it's thought to have been developed in the 19th or early 20th century when the steel industry was prevalent in the city.

The 412

Lots of US cities have area codes for nicknames, including Pittsburgh. The area code for Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, is 412, hence the nickname the 412. The area has had this code since 1947, making it a number that has been associated with Pittsburgh for over 75 years.

A bridge surrounded by trees and flags waving in the wind on flagpoles
If traveling from the airport, the Fort Pitt Tunnel serves as the city's "entrance"

The Only City With an Entrance

Another Pittsburgh nickname relating to bridges is the Only City With an Entrance. When arriving in Pittsburgh from the airport, you have to drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Once you're through the tunnel, you'll join the Fort Pitt Bridge and get a stunning view of the city skyline and the Monongahela River.

This nickname comes from a New York Times article in which the writer stated that Pittsburgh is the only city with an entrance due to basically being forced to cross the Fort Pitt Bridge when you arrive.

The Paris of Appalachia

Pittsburgh is one of the largest cities in the Appalachian region and has been described as the Paris of Appalachia. This name is used by a book of the same name, The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First Century by Brian O'Neill.

Other connections to the French Capital include the city's rich culture, including being home to the largest Andy Warhol museum in the world, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania. Despite having a very industrial past, the city has been transforming itself to become a cultural hub, with many new museums, theaters, galleries, and the like.

A city skyline and a yellow bridge over a river under a blue sky
The Burgh is a popular local nickname that's a shorter version of Pittsburgh

The Burgh

The Burgh nickname is a shortened version of Pittsburgh. Locals particularly like the nickname as it highlights the "h" at the end of the city name. This spelling is relatively unique to Pittsburgh as many other cities use the "burg" spelling at the end, including the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg.

Pittsburgh got its name in 1758 and was named after William Pitt. However, the spelling was changed to Pittsburg in 1891. Local campaigns finally got the "h" added back in 1911, and this day known as H Day, is still celebrated in the city!

The Smoky City

Another nickname relating to Pittsburgh's industrial past is the Smoky City. As the steel industry, and to some degree the ironworking industry, were so prevalent, air pollution was rampant in the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Due to this, the city constantly looked smoky, leading to the name the Smoky City.

These days, air pollution in the city is much better, and you'll no longer experience densely smoky air. However, the nickname relating to the city's industrial past somewhat remains.

A tall tower building on a sunny day next to bare winter trees
The Pitt is a local university nickname and a city of Pittsburgh nickname

The Pitt

Pittsburgh is sometimes shortened to the Pitt for various reasons. Not only is it a shortening of the city name, but it's also a nickname for the city's university, the University of Pittsburgh, which has expanded to be a moniker for the whole area.

Others suggest that it's related to the fact that Pittsburgh is somewhat built in a hole or pit due to the hilly topography that surrounds the city. Additionally, the name was used in the video game Fallout 3. The Pitt is a city that was built on the ruins of Pittsburgh after a war in the storyline.

In Conclusion

As you can see, Pittsburgh has an array of fun and interesting monikers associated with it. While many relate to its steel industry and sports teams, you'll also find those relating to unique features in the city, like its hundreds of bridges and beautiful rivers.

Whether you knew quite a few of these names or not, this list is sure to have taught you some new things about this Pennsylvania city and its history. Best of all, you can now impress any Pittsburgh resident with your knowledge of the area's many nicknames!

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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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