What Should We Call Spokane?


I imagine most every city has an official nickname, and it’s something horribly drab that was likely coined by an equally drab civic group. Yet those cities also developed more organically cool nicknames, too. And those are the terms that the residents hold dearer to their hearts.

As someone who loves his hometown, I’m jealous of the civic pride these communities feel. They have come together and given their towns a name they can call their own.

Spokane? Well, we’ve fallen a bit short of that goal.

Let me explain.


Portland, Oregon, is officially known as the ‘Rose City.’ Blah. So boring.


However, the city that proudly asks its residents to “Keep Portland Weird” is also known as ‘Rip City’ and ‘Stumptown.’ The former moniker comes from their NBA team, the Trailblazers. The latter handle was given during a boom period in the mid-1800s. Both are better than Rose City.

Let ’er rip, Stumptown!



Seattle, Washington, is listed as the ‘Emerald City’ on travel brochures. Maybe it would be cool if they claimed they were the fictional City of Oz, but we know the ‘emerald’ is due to all the evergreen trees in the area. Yawn. For a town known for its creativity, that moniker is boring with a capital ‘B.”

But Seattle is also called ‘Jet City.’ That is so cool! It’s based upon the amount of aerospace industry located there, yet I only discovered this nickname because of Queensryche’s awesome song “Jet City Woman.”


Chicago is “the Windy City,” which is cool in its own right. Yet the lucky folks who live in that town have a slew of handles just as badass.


Second City, the City of Broad Shoulders, the City That Works, the Great American City, and many more.

I mean, come on, Chicago. Save some nicknames for the rest of our poor cities!


Brother, Can You Spare a Moniker?

And then there’s Spokane—the Lilac City.

Ugh. If that isn’t the most uninspiring nickname, I don’t know what is. It sounds like we’re about to get bullied. “Come here, Lilac, and gimme your lunch money. Stop crying, you big baby.”


The idea to name Spokane this moniker of toughness came in the early 1930s when community leaders encouraged a local garden group to plant lilac bushes throughout the city. Imagine if those same community leaders had encouraged a local boxing club to hold fights throughout the city. Spokane could have been Fight Town!

Instead, we’re the Lilac City.

Black and Blue in the Lilac City

Cripes, I had to use that nickname in the title of one my books. At least, I didn’t call my signature series, “The Lilac City Crime Stories.” That would have sounded like some cozy mysteries! This town is friendly, but it’s definitely not Cabot Cove.

Spokane has yet to develop a homegrown nickname that swells a sense of community pride. Instead, all our handles tend to either come from a place of embarrassment or a sense of being unworthy. It’s as if we’re not cool enough for our own identity, so we’re going to pretend we’re you.

On of the strangest things that locals brag about is being the biggest city between Seattle and Minneapolis. Yeah. That’s a thing. We’re like that junior high school boy who pretended he was the cool kid to impress the girl who wouldn’t smile at him. Maybe we’ll grow out of this awkward stage soon, but we’ve been the Lilac City for almost a hundred years. So, unfortunately, our civic puberty hasn’t kicked in yet.

With that being said, here is a list of nicknames that Spokanites call their town. Some are uttered with a sense of love, while others are voiced with scorn. I’ll let you decide which is which.

Spokane Nicknames

(in alphabetical order)

Hooptown, USA - a reference to Hoopfest and Gonzaga basketball
Meth Town, USA
- just hurtful
Smokane - related to the recent fire seasons
Snowkane - based on our winters – not very original
Spokaine - I didn’t know there was that much cocaine in Spokane
Spokalaka - this makes me giggle
Spokaloo - this sounds funny, too
Spokamojo - three silly ones in a row!
Spokan’t – this is mean. I think Seattle is making some of these up.
Spokan’tdrive - another mean one. Have you seen Idaho drivers?
Spokanada - we’re not as nice as our neighbors to the north
Spokangeles - we’re getting too big for our britches
Spokandyland - not sure if this is sweet
Spokanistan - this isn’t a compliment
Spokansas - here’s a plug for the Midwest!
Spokavegas - we’re definitely not this exciting
Spoklahoma - another one I like the sound of
Spokompton - we’re trying to toughen our image
Spokorn - say it like an out-of-state farmer (Spo-korn, Warsh-ington)
Spotucky - I love this one!
The5ho9 - sounds like an ex-boyfriend in the 206 is slandering us
The Kan - this sounds like we’re hitting the head. I don’t like it.
The Spoke - does this even sound right?

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