18 Houston Nicknames That Will Surprise You

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A park with a city skyline in the background on a cloudy day
Houston is a bustling Texas city with many alternate names

Houston, located along the Gulf Coast in the southern state of Texas, is one of the leading business hubs in the region. It's the fourth most populous city in the United States and is known internationally as the Energy Capital of the World because of how many oil, gas, and renewable resource producers are headquartered here.

But even though Houston owes much of its growth to oil exploration, space exploration had a hand in bringing the City of Houston to the international stage. Houston gained the official nickname of Space City back in the 1960s when NASA chose the area to house ground control operations for its crewed spacecraft missions.

But while these may be two of the most well-known Houston nicknames, there are plenty of others used in everyday conversation, from the 713 to H-Town. In this article, you'll learn all about these common nicknames for Houston and more obscure ones: from the suggestive (but not really) Screwston to the insulting (if you played for the 1994 Houston Rockets) Choke City. Continue reading to discover 18 alternate names for Houston!

18 Nicknames for Houston, Texas

Houston Nicknames Video

Check out our highlights video of Houston nicknames.

Aerial shot of white tanks surrounded by grass and trees
Due to its role in the energy industry, Houston is the Energy Capital of the World

The Energy Capital of the World

Houston is a city built around the energy sector. It is home to businesses across all segments of energy production and distribution. In fact, you'll find more than 4,700 energy industry companies headquartered in the city. So it should be no surprise that Houston is known as the Energy Capital of the World.

Today, Houston is seeing growth in the renewable energy sector. Still, oil and gas have been behind the city's historic success. More than 600 exploration and production companies call the area home, employing just under one-third of all oil and gas extraction jobs in the United States.

The 713

This Houston nickname dates all the way back to 1947. That's when 713 became the original telephone area code for the city. It remained the only area code for Southeast Texas until 1983. While the region's population has continued to grow, and the area is split into numerous other telephone codes today, 713 continues to represent Houston's core. The city remains affectionately referred to as the 713.

Houstonians embrace the 713 nickname so much that a celebration is held every year on July 13th, marking the unofficial holiday with live music performances and specials at local restaurants and bars.

A plane and spaceship model in front of a white building
Space City has been a nickname for Houston since the 1960s

Space City

Houston's history as the Space City dates back to the 1960s when NASA selected the area to host its Manned Spacecraft Center. Constructed in 1962 on 1,000 acres donated by the Humble Oil and Refining Company, the Manned Spacecraft Center operated as ground control during the Apollo space missions, including Apollo 11, which put the first humans on the moon.

The City of Houston officially became known as Space City in 1967. Houston police were ahead of the game, however, having already added "Space City, U.S.A." to their patches in 1964. That tradition persists today, with Space City still adorning the official police logo.


No, it's probably not what you're thinking. That is unless you're a longtime fan of 1990's Houston hip-hop producer DJ Screw. Known for his Chopped and Screwed music style and for creating more than 350 mixtapes (called Screwtapes) throughout his career, DJ Screw inspired Screwston as a Houston nickname among his loyal fans known as "Screwheads."

DJ Screw passed away in 2000, but his legacy and the city nickname of Screwston continue to live on. Not just in casual conversation but also in the lyrics of other Houston musicians like La' Von J.

A facade of an old white building near a small plane on a cloudy day
HOU is the airport code for William P. Hobby Airport


At first glance, you may think people are just being lazy and abbreviating the city's name. And you might be right. HOU is a convenient and unmistakable way to shorthand Houston. But there's far more significance to this nickname for Houston than just saving a few keystrokes.

HOU is actually the airport code for William P. Hobby Airport. Often referred to simply as Hobby Airport, it's the oldest airport in Houston. It began operations as a private airstrip in 1927, being purchased by the City of Houston a decade later.

A facade of a building with a sign saying "Toyota" near palm trees
The City of the Rockets pays homage to NASA's Space Center and the Houston Rockets

The City of the Rockets

Most people attribute this nickname to the NBA's Houston Rockets. Houston is the City of the Rockets, after all. You can find the moniker used throughout local popular culture, including by the Houston underground hip-hop artist, AnTone, in his song Reppin' For My City.

But then again, the City of the Rockets could also pay homage to Houston's NASA Johnson Space Center, one of the most famous landmarks in Texas. The Space Center, home to popular exhibits like the International Space Station Gallery, was once the base for ground control during the 1960s and 70s Apollo moon missions.

Capital of the Sunbelt

Houston got the nickname Capital of the Sunbelt during a period of rapid growth and prosperity in the 1970s. Fueled by a thriving petroleum industry, producers flocked to Houston to cash in and expand the domestic supply. By 1985, even academics were referring to Houston as the Capital of the Sunbelt.

Although the boomtown years may be over, Houston remains the most crucial energy city in the United States. More than 170 pipeline operators call the area home, with the state of Texas producing, on average, more than five million barrels of crude oil daily.

A low-angle shot from a boardwalk of buildings and a bridge over the river
With many waterways like Bayous in Houston, it's only apt to call it the Bayou City

Bayou City

Bayou City is one of the oldest Houston nicknames, given in reference to the 10 waterways which run through the region. The City of Houston was actually founded in 1836 on a spot called Allen's Landing at the juncture of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou.

Additionally, Houston comprises around 2,500 miles of bayous and other waterways running throughout the city, so it's easy to see why early residents referred to it as the Bayou City. There was even a steamship in the 1850s named the Bayou City.

Today, this is one of the Houston, Texas, nicknames that you'll find used all throughout the city, from the elegant Bayou City Event Center to the annual Bayou City Arts Festival.

Magnolia City

Magnolia City is another old Houston nickname that dates back to the 1800s. First used locally in the 1870s, the term denotes the magnolia forests that once existed in areas of East Houston. The nickname gained widespread fame after being used by the Texas World newspaper to describe the city in the early 1900s.

The magnolia forests were all removed in the name of progress by the 1920s, but the nickname has managed to stick around. But even though Magnolia City is a popular nickname, the magnolia tree didn't make the cut as the official state tree. In one of the most surprising Texas facts for many Houstonians, the official state tree of Texas is the pecan tree!

Aerial shot of an urban city with many skyscrapers near a park
Houston is also called the Silicon Bayou, as it is a hub for major tech companies

Silicon Bayou

A play on tech-driven Silicon Valley and Houston's famous bayous, Silicon Bayou is a nickname that highlights the city's growing prominence in the technology industry. Houston is no stranger to technology: the Offshore Technology Conference has been held here since 1969. But nowadays, you'll find more than just energy tech; the city is also a hotbed for medical and digital technology.

The City of Houston has even partnered with major technology companies like Microsoft, who have launched the Accelerate: Houston program to promote social entrepreneurship within the community.

Hustle Town

Referring to the city's importance as a business and cultural hub, Hustle Town denotes a constantly moving and shaking city. It's among many Houston names referencing the city's international business significance.

In common usage, the name was popularized by local Houston rapper South Park Mexican (often abbreviated as SPM) when he released a 1998 album (and title track) named Hustle Town. Since then, the term has been widely used within the local hip-hop community.

You'll even find the phrase "Welcome to Hustle Town" painted at Minute Maid Park, one of the top landmarks in Houston and home to the MLB's Houston Astros. There's no question that the Astros were hustling with the 230 home runs delivered during their famous 2015 season!

Clutch City

Perhaps the most famous nickname for the City of Houston among sports fans, Clutch City references the Houston Rockets clutching two consecutive NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995. The Clutch City nickname began appearing in 1994 after the first championship win, in response to a Houston Chronicle article criticizing the team for choking and giving up huge leads during two postseason games.

The Clutch City nickname has been widely adopted throughout the Houston sports world. Not only did the Rockets change their mascot to Clutch the Rockets Bear in 1995, but the term Clutch City has also been used in reference to the MLB's Houston Astros winning the National League Championship Series in 2005 and the Houston Dynamo taking the MLS Cup in 2006.

Stephanie A Sellers/Shutterstock.com
Facade of a building painted teal and brick red colors with many glass windows
Some Houston nicknames, like Crush City, arise from monumental sports moments

Crush City

Another Houston, Texas, nickname that originates within the sports community, Crush City, is a reference to the 2015 Houston Astros season. That's because, in 2015, Astros batters crushed the ball for 230 home runs. This put them second in homers in Major League Baseball for the season.

However, the Crush City nickname extends beyond the Astros. Houston Crush City is a club-level team of USA Ultimate.

Choke City

The nickname Choke City originated from a May 12th, 1994, headline in the Houston Chronicle deriding the NBA's Houston Rockets for giving up considerable leads to lose two consecutive semifinal games against the Phoenix Suns.

The headline simply read "Choke City," referencing how the players figuratively choked during the games. Thankfully for Houstonians, particularly the Rockets, the nickname wouldn't stick for long. The team recovered from their losses and went on the win the 1994 NBA Championship and then repeat their championship win in 1995.

A giant sign saying "We (heart) Houston"
Houston's welcoming nature after Hurricane Katrina validates the name the Big Heart

The Big Heart

Houston earned the nickname of the Big Heart through its response to 2005's Hurricane Katrina. The storm devastated New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana, 350 miles to the east along the Gulf of Mexico.

More than 150,000 refugees from New Orleans fled to Houston following the storm, with over 110,000 still there a year later. To accommodate the influx, the City of Houston moved storm evacuees into 35,000 empty apartments throughout the city.

Instead of the typical approach of putting disaster refugees up in isolated camps of trailers, Bill White, then-mayor of Houston, spearheaded the program that integrated new residents into the community. This enabled Houston to forever be known as the Big Heart.

Ozone City

Used within punk and alternative music circles to refer to Houston, Ozone City isn't necessarily a compliment. Although nobody actually knows where the nickname originated from, the general consensus is that it's referencing the historically poor air quality in the city.

According to the American Lung Association, Houston is the 8th worst city for ozone pollution. While other names for Houston may be more positive, perhaps the Ozone City moniker is the wake-up call that local environmental regulators need.

H-Town is one of the Houston nicknames that birthed from music and entertainment
H-Town became a nickname for Texas when an artist of the same name rose to fame


Other nicknames may be older, but few are more prevalent in everyday usage than H-Town. The origin of the nickname is up for debate, but most Houstonians agree it entered the common lexicon in the 1990s. That's when the Houston hip-hop band named H-Town rose to international fame.

Since then, H-Town has been a common way to refer to Houston. You'll also find the nickname used by the annual H-Town Blues Festival. Houston's Arena Theatre was even known as the H'Town Arena for several years until the property was sold in 2004.

Mutt City

As the largest city in Texas, Houston is a diverse melting pot representing numerous cultures. Over the years, these integrated cultures have produced a blend of cuisines unique to the city. So much so that writer John T. Edge gave Houston the nickname Mutt City for its food scene that developed from a variety of different influences.

This was a big deal for Houston, as Edge also claimed that the city had replaced New Orleans, in nearby Louisiana, as the cultural center of the United States Gulf Coast.

In Summary

As you've discovered in this article, many of the most popular Houston slogans have common sense origins. There's the 713, known for being the area code at the heart of Houston. HOU, another intuitive nickname, is the official code for William P. Hobby Airport.

Other nicknames for Houston aren't quite as straightforward. Screwston, a name that comes from fans of 1990s Houston musician DJ Screw may sound a little suggestive without any background. And Mutt City, which doesn't have anything to do with dogs, is actually a reference to the city's blended food culture.

Whether you knew lots of these nicknames or not, you should have found out a little more about the interesting background of some of Houston's most famous monikers!

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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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