Do You Know All 11 Nicknames for St. Louis?

st. louis nicknames

Any beloved city is sure to have a bevy of nicknames, and St. Louis is no different.

There are so many nicknames for the Lou that it’s hard to decide what to call the River City. Some names for STL are serious and others for the Chess Capital of the World are silly, but they’re all sure to inspire local pride.

So, what exactly should you call The Gateway City?

I’ve compiled a list of St. Louis’s most frequently used nicknames, so you can decide for yourself. 🙂

1. The Lou

First up, we’ve got the Lou. This is one of the simplest nicknames on our list, and it comes from a Nelly song. That’s right, the rapper’s very first single, “Country Grammar,” featured the lyric “I’m from the Lou and I’m proud.”

From then on, the name stuck, and it’s since served as an affectionate way to refer to the city, especially to out-of-towners.

2. Saint Lou

Next, we’ve got Saint Lou, also written as St. Lou. Probably derived from the previous nickname, Saint Lou comes off as slightly more formal than simply saying “the Lou,” but it’s just as fun.

I’ve never heard anyone speak this nickname out loud, but I’ve seen it written in local blogs and magazine articles.

3. The STL

Often stylized as STL (sans “the”), this is one of St. Louis’s most common nicknames. It originated from the abbreviation for St. Louis’s Lambert International Airport—if you’ve flown to or from the city, you’ll know it well.

STL is an easy way to reference the city’s name shorthand, so it’s often found in the social media handles of many local businesses and in the bios of residents from all over the county. It’s an easy and convenient way to shorten the words “St. Louis” when writing.

4. River City

St. Louis is sometimes called River City because it’s only 20 miles away from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Anyone who’s ever been to the city can attest that its riverside location is a major feature.

And to have not one but two rivers separating St. Louis from Illinois? Now that’s a true river city, right there.

For tourists, there are plenty of river boat tours available to help you learn the layout of the city. See the sights and find out what makes this River City so special.

5. Rome of the West

Rome of the West is an older nickname for St. Louis. It was originated because of St. Louis’s large Catholic influence—if you’ve been to Central West End and laid eyes on the enormous Cathedral Basilica, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

At one point, the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis served almost half of the country, hence the nickname. However, as the Archdiocese’s influence has diminished, so has the use of this moniker.

6. The Gateway City

St. Louis is sometimes called the Gateway City to honor the Gateway Arch, the city’s most notable landmark. Apart from its visual beauty and architectural prowess, the Arch is lauded for its representation of the city as a gateway to the unknown.

For much of the 19th century, St. Louis was the westernmost established American city, so it was the last bit of familiar civilization for many who were making their way westward. Lewis and Clark began their cross-country expedition in St. Louis. Here, they were able to trade for necessary goods before venturing out into the unknown. To show appreciation for Lewis and Clark’s exploration and bravery, the nickname of the Gateway City was coined.

7. Gateway to the West

Like the name above, Gateway to the West honors the Lewis and Clark cross-country expedition. It’s a little more self-explanatory than the Gateway City, while still paying homage to the city’s history as an important trading post and final settled frontier.

Gateway to the West is often regarded as a catchphrase for the city.

8. The Mound City

Once upon a time, St. Louis was home to over 40 mounds, traditional Native American-built hills used to elevate religious structures, support important buildings, and house sacred burial sites. However, these mounds were almost all destroyed during the industrialization of Missouri in the 19th century. The name “Mound City” was coined to pay homage to the mounds and the indigenous people who built them.

This is a nickname that the city has tried to shed, in part because there’s a rural town in Missouri that’s actually named Mound City.

Personally, I’ve lived here for a few years now, and I’ve never heard this nickname used. Still, it serves as a good reminder of St. Louis’s history.

9. Chess Capital of the World

Did you know St. Louis is known for chess?

The World Chess Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club (one of the most prominent in the nation) have helped to cement this nickname as one that’s here to stay. Don’t miss the world’s largest chess piece while you’re here—it’s a 20-foot-tall king on Maryland Avenue.

10. Lion of the Valley

This is an archaic nickname, but one worth noting for its history. Lion of the Valley was popularized as a nickname for St. Louis from a James Neal Primm historical account of the same name.

St. Louis is in a river valley, and it was once the most prominent city in the area, just as a lion is thought of as the most powerful jungle cat. Thus, the name Lion of the Valley was born.

Though it’s seldom used, it’s a pretty and poetic way to refer to St. Louis, and for that reason, I couldn’t help but include it in our list.

11. There’s More Than Meets the Arch

In St. Louis, there’s more than meets the Arch. This is less of a nickname and more of a fun catchphrase, but it’s still worth mentioning!

Taking inspiration from the saying “there’s more than meets the eye,” this tagline reminds those who hear it about just how much there is to do in our unassuming city.