Winnipeg has been given several nicknames over the years that showcase its unique culture, history, and geography. From playful and whimsical to inviting, they reveal a lot about the city’s character and its people.
Regardless of their origin or popularity, all of them have one thing in common: they offer a unique perspective on the city.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the meaning and significance of some of Winnipeg’s most famous nicknames.
What exactly is Winnipeg’s real nickname?
There are several nicknames that are given to Winnipeg like Chicago of the North, The Peg, The 4, and Slurpee Capital of the World.
However, Gateway to the West and Winterpeg stand out from the rest. These two are famously used by Winnipegers, Canadians, and even non-Canadians.
In a nutshell, these distinctions have their own meaning and history. Let’s take a look at them.
Gateway to the West
Winnipeg is also famously known as the “Gateway to the West.” This nickname is rooted in Winnipeg’s historic and strategic role as a transportation hub connecting Eastern Canada with Western Canada and the rest of the world.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Winnipeg was the crossroads of Canada’s railway network, which made it an essential link between the east and the west.
The Canadian Pacific Railway chose Winnipeg as its main western terminal because of its location. The city became a hub for goods, passengers, and immigration.
This made Winnipeg a vital center for trade, commerce, and transportation in the country and a key gateway to the west.
Furthermore, Winnipeg’s location made it a natural starting point for travelers, settlers, and pioneers heading west to explore and settle the vast Canadian prairies.
The city served as a supply and support center for these west-bound pioneers, providing them with the resources they needed to embark on their journey.
Today, Winnipeg continues to be an essential transportation hub and a center for trade, commerce, and industry in Western Canada.
Winnipeg has earned the nickname “Winterpeg” due to its cold and snowy winters. It is also known as the coldest city in Canada during the winter seasons, since it is long, frigid, and lasts for several months.
Visibly, the nickname has become synonymous with the city and its harsh climate, resulting in the wordplay.
The nickname’s origin traces back to the 1960s and 1970s when Winnipeg underwent rapid growth and modernization. At the time, the harsh winters were seen to obstruct the city’s development.
And the news reports mentioned its extreme climate and dubbed it “Winterpeg.”
Eventually, “Winterpeg” became its nickname. After all, the challenging winter weather has since become part of its identity.
Today, the city has embraced the cold weather and is now home to a thriving winter tourism industry. These attract visitors from around the world who come to experience the “Winterpeg.”
Chicago of the North
Winnipeg is often referred to as “Little Chicago” or, more famously, “Chicago of the North.” This nickname was first coined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Winnipeg was a rapidly growing hub for trade and commerce.
The nickname is a reference to Chicago city in the United States, which was a major industrial center at the time and continues to be so today.
While Winnipeg was the center of the Canadian grain trade and a central transportation hub for goods transported from the west to the east of Canada.
As a result, the city attracted numerous new businesses, including banks, wholesale firms, and manufacturing companies, which drove economic growth and job creation.
Moreover, Winnipeg’s architectural heritage also played a role in earning the nickname “Chicago of the North.”
Many of the city’s early buildings, including its historic warehouses and commercial structures, were built in a style that was similar to that of Chicago’s iconic architecture. This similarity in building style further reinforced the comparison between the two cities.
Not to mention, you may still see “Chicago” in the city. The architecture in Exchange District in Downtown Winnipeg still looks like what it was in the 90s.
“The Peg” is a nickname for Winnipeg that has been used for many years and has become a part of the city’s identity. Evidently, “The Peg” is a shortened name from Winnipeg and is primarily used by locals.
However, the exact origin of the nickname is unclear; it has been embraced by the people of Winnipeg and is now a symbol of the city’s unique character.
Although, there are a few theories on the origin of the nickname. One suggests that the name comes from the wooden pegs used to secure the tents of early settlers in the region.
Another theory is that the nickname refers to the city’s central location on the map of Canada, much like a peg that holds things in place.
Despite the uncertainty of its origin, the nickname has stuck and is now widely used to refer to Winnipeg. The city is often referred to as “The Peg” in conversation and media, and it has become a source of pride for its residents.
It has also become a part of the city’s identity, appearing on merchandise, in tourism promotions, and even on local sports teams.
Winnipeg has a nickname that may seem a bit unusual to outsiders; it is referred to as “The 4.” This nickname has become synonymous with the city and is used frequently by residents and visitors alike.
Just like “The Peg,” the nickname “The 4” also has an unclear origin. Some say that it can be traced back to the city’s area code, 204.
The area code has been this way since 1947, long before the advent of cell phones and the widespread use of the internet.
Despite the technological shift, the 204 area code remained associated with Winnipeg, and residents continued to refer to it as “The 4”.
Furthermore, the nickname also has another meaning for Winnipeggers. It represents the city’s four rivers — the Red River, the Assiniboine River, the La Salle River, and the Seine River.
Slurpee Capital of the World
Another unique distinction that Winnipeg has is being referred to as the “Slurpee Capital of the World.” This nickname has been bestowed upon the city due to its residents’ love for the frozen drink called Slurpee.
The popular carbonated frozen drink was introduced in the late 1960s by 7-Eleven. It quickly gained popularity and soon became a staple item in convenience stores across North America.
However, it was in Winnipeg where the love for Slurpee skyrocketed.
According to 7-Eleven, Winnipeg consumes more Slurpee drinks per capita than any other city worldwide. This remarkable consumption has earned Winnipeg the title of “Slurpee Capital of the World.”
It is estimated that Winnipeg residents consume an average of over 200,000 Slurpee drinks every month, making the city a significant market for the company.
This love for Slurpee has also become a part of Winnipeg’s cultural identity. The residents have embraced the drink, and it has become a symbol of Winnipeg’s unique spirit.
What does Winnipeg really mean?
The name “Winnipeg” is rooted in the region’s indigenous culture. The city is named after the nearby Winnipeg Lake, which flows through the city’s heart.
“Winnipeg” is derived from the Cree word “win,” which means muddy, and “nipee,” which means water. “Muddy waters” describes Winnipeg Lake itself.
This name was given to the river by the Cree people who lived in the area and referred to it as such due to its fast-moving, murky waters.