University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Illustration of City Hall, the
Illustration by Alina Skyson
Culture & Society

The 6ix

Rap star Drake popularized Toronto’s new nickname

Over the course of its 222-year history, Toronto has been known by a variety of nicknames. Originally “Muddy York,” the city was dubbed “Hogtown” in the 19th century, thanks to a booming pork industry, and then “Toronto the Good” by a civic-boosting mayor.

The 20th century brought “The Big Smoke” and “TO,” but these have now been eclipsed by “T-Dot” and “The 6ix.” Mark Kingwell, a professor of philosophy who has written about urbanism, says city monikers tend to fall into two categories – self-celebration (such as “Hollywood North” or “The City That Works”) and self-deprecation.

The 6ix, which was popularized by Toronto rap star Drake, is said to have been inspired by either the city’s two main area codes or the original six municipalities. Either way, it represents an interesting new direction in Toronto nicknames, says Kingwell, because of its connection to hip hop and urban culture. “This is new-century Toronto,” he says, “with the same confident vibe of ‘We the North.’”

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