There is no shortage of nicknames for Paris, from its origins as Lutetia to the affectionate nickname Paname that Parisiens still use today. So what are the main nicknames for Paris, and what’s the story behind them?
Paris was known as “Lutetia” or “Lutèce” in ancient times. This name comes from the Celtic word “Lutetia,” which means “midwater” or “marshy place.” The city was originally founded on islands in the Seine River, and the Celtic Parisii tribe settled there. So, “Lutetia” reflects both the city’s location and its Celtic origins. During Roman rule, Lutetia grew in importance as a trading centre and developed Roman infrastructure, leaving behind traces of its ancient past that can still be explored today.
The “Arènes de Lutèce” is an ancient Roman amphitheatre located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. It is one of the few well-preserved remnants of Roman Paris from the 1st century AD. The transformation of Paris’s name from “Lutetia” to “Paris” occurred over centuries as the city evolved.
One of the most affectionate and commonly used nicknames for Paris, even to this day, is Paname. But why do locals call Paris Paname? No one knows where the name comes from, but there are two broad theories:
- The name comes from the Panama scandal, a corruption affair and financial scandal which broke out in 1889. It affected several Parisian political figures and businessmen. Faced with this scandal affecting the big names in the capital, residents across France were quick to call Parisians “panamists” and “Panam(e)” the city where all these corrupt people lived.
- Another version suggests that the word Panama comes from the so-called “Panama” straw hat shown for the first time during the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855. Workers on the Panama Canal widely wore this hat, hence its name, but also Parisians who immediately found this hat elegant and classy. This headgear, very fashionable at the turn of the 20th century, would have given Paris this nickname!
La Ville Lumière (The City of Lights)
Arguably the most famous of Paris’s nicknames outside of France, it has transcended language barriers and become synonymous with the city itself.
Many believe that Paris is called the “City of Lights” because it was in Paris that the first ever major public lighting was born under King of France, Louis XIV, in 1665. Thousands of candle-lit lanterns had been placed in the streets and on facades on the orders of Gilbert Nicolas de La Reynie, first lieutenant general of the Paris police. The official, appointed by Louis XIV, wanted to improve security in the streets at night to dissuade criminals from attacking passers-by. Although public lighting has since spread worldwide, the nickname “City of Lights” has remained.
Before “Panama” became a popular nickname for Paris, the city was occasionally referred to as “Pantruche.” This term’s origin can be traced back to the name of a small town outside Paris called Pantin. As Paris grew and incorporated some of Pantin’s territory, people began colloquially using “Pantin” to refer to the expanding city. This name later evolved into “Pantruche.” While not a commonly used nickname for Paris, Pantruche has become “cool” again.
“Parigot” is a slang term used to describe a native or longtime resident of Paris. It’s how people from other parts of France refer to those living in Paris. It has a slightly negative connotation, though, often implying a bad reputation of Parisiens as being rude or grumpy.
Voila! Let me know in the comments below if you’ve heard of any other nicknames for Paris or its inhabitants.