Why is Chicago called the Windy City? Is it really Windy in Chicago?

Called the “Windy City” for well over a century, Chicago is famed for its swirling wind currents. But all may not be as it seems. Both the city’s nickname and the assumptions behind it are blustery affairs.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Chicago’s “Windy City” nickname is the fact that there’s no certainty about its origin. But there are theories. One possible explanation appeared in an article in the September 11th, 1886, edition of The Chicago Tribune. It claimed that the nicknamed referred to the refreshing “lake breezes” blowing off Lake Michigan. Another explanation completely ignores climate and credits 19th century Chicago promoters William Bross and John Stephan Wright with inspiring the phrase. In this colorful version of the story, witnesses to the pair’s loud boasts eventually branded them “windbags”. The backhanded term “windy city” grew from this, and the rest is history.

The origin of Chicago’s nickname may be up for debate, but the veracity of its claim is not. You need only consult weather records that display average annual wind speeds for US cities. Certainly, if Chicago’s “Windy City” moniker derives from its much-celebrated wind currents, this would be the place to confirm it.

According to the National Climatic Data Center findings from 2003, Blue Hill, Massachusetts, blows harder than all other US cities, with a 15.4 mile per hour average annual wind speed. Dodge City, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas, get second and third place honors, with wind speeds of 14.0 mph and 13.5 mph, respectively. Lubbock, Texas comes in 10th on the center’s top 10 list with a 12.4 mph clocking.

So how fast do air currents move in the notorious “Windy City”? With average annual winds pushing the needle to just 10.3 miles per hour, it appears that Chicago’s blustery status is full of hot air.

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