Why is Toronto Called "the Big Smoke"?

One theory states that the name "the Big Smoke" comes from Toronto's history as an industrial center.
One theory states that the name "the Big Smoke" comes from Toronto's history as an industrial center.

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the capital of Ontario. It is home to about 2.8 million people, while the Greater Toronto area has a population of about 6 million. The city is an international center of culture, arts, business, and finance. The name Toronto was derived from “Taronto” used by the native people to refer to a series of tunnels between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. The name was applied to a new fort constructed along the Humber River and eventually to the successive city. In 1793 the city name was changed to York, but in 1834 it was renamed Toronto. Over the years, the city has adopted several nicknames, including the Big Smoke.

The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke was first used by Australian writer Alan Rayburn and popularized by Canadian journalist Alan Fotheringham. Fotheringham used the nickname to depict Toronto as a city with a giant reputation and nothing to show for it. This is the most acceptable version, but a less popular theory suggests that the name originated in the 1900s when the city was industrial and occasionally covered by smog clouds. An even less popular version states that the name originated from the Great Fire of Toronto that burnt down downtown Toronto in April 1904. The fire remains the largest ever to occur in Toronto.

Other Nicknames For Toronto

The Six

Toronto has been the largest municipality in Canada for several decades. Before it became a single city, it was made up of six towns: Toronto, York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and East York hence the nickname “The Six.” Although the nickname has existed for several decades, it was popularized by Canadian hip-hop star Drake after he named his music album Views from the 6.

Hog Town

The nickname Hog Town originated from William Davies Company that was once the largest meat processor in Canada. The company packaged several meat brands, but it was famous for peameal bacon. There were also several food processors in the city. It is believed that the William Davis company slaughtered over half-a-million pigs. A less popular version suggests that the nickname was an insult levied to Toronto for its tendency to dominate other cities.


T Dot or T.O originated from the attempt to shorten the name Toronto to resemble NY for New York and LA for Los Angeles. It is either a short name for “Toronto, Ontario” or “TOronto.”

Toronto the Good

The nickname Toronto the Good was coined by former City mayor William Howland who sought to improve the reputation of Toronto by discouraging gambling and liquor consumption while encouraging Christianity and good ethics. Today, the nickname is occasionally used as a sarcastic title since Toronto is nowhere close to the city envisioned by William Holland.

Queen City

The moniker Queen City has nothing to do with Queen Elizabeth or any other royalty, but it is instead the name used to describe the largest city in a country, province, or state that is not the capital.


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