Local terminology for Indianapolis, IN

A skyline photo with sun setting in background

Don’t sleep on Naptown — we’re a pretty lit city. | Photo via @aaron.creates

Table of Contents

Indy transplants + Hoosiers alike will probably learn something new from this roundup of local terminology.


We all know the not-so-flattering nickname for Indy, but what’s it all about? The term’s origins come from the Jazz Age, as its earliest reference was in a 1927 Indianapolis Recorder article about jazz musicians. The paper was + is the city’s highest-circulating Black newspaper + it was Black residents who fondly gave the city this nickname. During World War II, it was also used to highlight our city’s “warmth, friendliness, and shelter” that soldiers found when they were stationed here.

Engraving of the phrase "No Mean City"

You can find this engraving on the Old Indianapolis City Hall. | Photo by INDYtoday team

No Mean City

This was a phrase made famous by… someone. That’s up for debate. Many believe the term was coined when Indianapolis Mayor Charles Bookwalter said it in a 1903 campaign banner. Others speculate that former president Benjamin Harrison made it famous in a speech he made at a dinner in 1897. As far as we can tell, the diary of Calvin Fletcher, which was written in 1857, makes him the true author. In it, he recorded a quote from a minister’s sermon, writing, “I am a citizen of no mean city” and connected it to Indianapolis.

The Loop

Commuters are all too familiar with this term for the downtown interstate system, which encircles the Greater Indianapolis area. I-465 was completed in 1970 + it’s occasionally used as a measuring stick as to whether a business will deliver locally, saying they only do deliveries “inside the loop.”

Big 10

Okay, if there’s one thing Hoosiers know about, it’s hospitality. And the Big 10 Football Championship Game is one of the biggest events we host. We’ve been hosting this college football frenzy since 2011 + will be hosting again this year. The game is said to give a $20 million boost to Indy’s economy.

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