All Those Team Nicknames

Think about all the team nicknames in sports. This post examines nicknames and attempts to look at them from a different perspective: taxonomy (classification).

To simplify things, I concentrated on pro and college teams; which are enough because high schools take nicknames to a whole new level. But still, high schools names fit into this scheme as well. Instead of listing all the examples of each category, I’ll include an example or two most of the time.

Nicknames can be grouped into 4 kingdoms: Biology, People, Culture, and (in honor of Jeopardy) Potpourri.

The Biology Kingdom provides Arachnids (Spiders), Aquatic (Seawolves), Birds (Peacocks, Chanticleers), Canines (Salukis), Dog Relatives (Lobos), Den Dwellers (Grizzlies), Equines (Colts, Broncos), Felines (Catamounts), Horned Animals (Stags), Insects (Bollweevils), Reptiles (Terrapins, Rattlers), Ungulates (Longhorns, Bulls, Camels), Trees (Sycamores, Buckeyes, Oaks), Vegetables (Fighting Artichokes, Fighting Okra {an unofficial nickname}), and hordes of other animals as Jackrabbits, Razorbacks, Anteaters, Wombats, and Predators.

The People Kingdom brings us Fighting Groups (Leathernecks, Musketeers), The Daring (Flyers, Racers, Trail Blazers, Claim Jumpers), Government Officials (Presidents, Governors, Statesmen, Senators, Diplomats), Organized Groups (Volunteers, Patriots), Heritage Groups (Ragin’ Cajuns, Nanooks, Flying Dutchmen, Cossacks), Hispanic Themed (Gauchos, Matadors, Toreros), The Influential (Dukes, Barons, Lords), Military (Generals, Colonels, Paladins), Native Americans (a controversy I won’t address), Number-based Groups (49’ners, 76’ers), Occupations (Boilermakers, Brewers, Truckers, Hatters, Poets), Villains (Vandals, Marauders, Privateers), and the Western Frontier (Spurs, Cowboys, Gauchos).

The Culture Kingdom provides many other looks at life as Man-Made Objects (Jets, Hatchets, Wooden Shoes), Music (Blues, Jazz), Mythical (Billikens, Wizards, Titans), Regional Features (Hokies, Hilltoppers, Twins), Religion (Battling Bishops, Quakers, Padres), and Themselves (Phillies and yes, the Smithies from Smithville).

The Potpourri Kingdom gives us a wild assortment of goodies as Colors (Orange, Crimson, Mean Green), Inanimate Objects (Golden Flashes, Pride, Heat, Magic, Zips, Blue Steaks, Chargers), Space (Astros, Stars), Water (Waves, Tides), and Weather (Thunder, Lightning, Tornadoes).

But even with this classification, there still so much more to discover.

  • Knights is not enough: let there be Black Knights, White Knights, Golden Knights, Scarlet Knights
  • Colors aren’t enough either; thus Golden Eagles, Golden Knights, Golden Falcons, Golden Bears, and the Golden Hurricane
  • Hawks aren’t enough; so bring us Blackhawks, Redhawks, Warharks, Skyhawks, Seahawks, and even Hawkeyes
  • Spelling matters: Bearcats and Bearkats
  • Plurality matters: Hurricane or Hurricanes
  • Pronunciation matters: Rough Riders and Roughriders
  • Gender matters: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills

Minor league baseball has opened up another level of creativity and political correctness with Biscuits, Chukars, Rascals, and Defenders to name a few. But these baseball organizations can’t match the assortment of nicknames our nation’s high schools provide.

Whether the Fighting Porcupines, Winged Beavers, Purple Pounders, Lava Bears or the Skeeters, high schools top them all. High schools include my longtime, all-time personal favorite: Poca Dots (high school in Poca, WV).

It would be fun to examine what names don’t exist; but knowing that the Banana Slugs exist, why wouldn’t anything else. For those who want more about team nicknames, see these links.

18 thoughts on “All Those Team Nicknames

  1. Excellent job here Frank.

    I remember when here in NC when Charlotte was getting another NBA franchise to replace the departed Hornets. They gave us a choice to pick the nickname, and me and all my close friends all voted for the Charlotte Flight because it was different. So they ended up getting Bobcats.

    Nice work buddy.


  2. Don’t forget the “Nads” of the Rhode Island School of Design. They get the nod for the Best Cheer in Sports Award, for “Go Nads!” Their basketball team is actually called the “Balls.”


  3. Dave – Thanks for the kind words & the Charlotte story. To go along with that one, I don’t know if this is a legend or true, but I heard that when Stanford was transitioning from the Indians, the students voted for Thunderchickens.

    Vol85 – Yes, there are some odd names out their.

    A reader on TSN asked about the classification system. It’s mine … after looking at the names, I started seeing broad categories and just went from there.


    • Rod … thanks for visiting.

      Odd is relative to the beholder. For instance, given its uniqueness, Tar Heels could be considered odd. Bill Russell led the Dons to the D-1 basketball crown in the late 50s. Examining D2, D3, and NAIA list of champions in all the sports would be an interesting study in itself. Here’s the link:

      Meanwhile, knowing the color of your blood, I can say that 3 schools have won men’s D1 basketball titles as Wildcats.


      • Well, given the day’s cold weather, we stayed in; so the game was on. To think the Bengals looked that much better than the Browns on this day amplifies the sorry state of these two franchises.

        Meanwhile, the Browns will send their coach packing, and the Bengals will continue to be themselves.


  4. i get annoyed when teams feel the need for the double consonant. jacksonville jaguars. tennessee titans. blech. i also get annoyed when teams move cities but keep the nickname. arizona cardinals? how about roadrunners instead? utah jazz? there’s a lot of jazz in utah?

    curious as to why you didn’t include lions and tigers in the feline category.


    • RMV,
      I’ll have to return to examine this post of many moons ago – which is actually one of my favorites. The Utah Jazz is such a great example of stupidity. Glad you found this one deep in my vault. Thanks for visiting.


  5. The banana slugs? Imma petition the Dolphins to change their name, because THAT one fits them to a tee!

    I dig Blackhawks, Seahawks and Hurricanes.

    Biology: I like Bearcats, Salukis, Lobos, Spiders (My son went to Richmond), Colts, Broncos, Longhorns and Sycamores. And Fighting Artichokes . . I have a new favorite, lol. I detest Predators.

    The Matadors, Paladins, Hatters, Poets and Gauchos are my top five People nicknames.

    The Quakers (My son also went to Penn), Jazz, Hilltoppers, Twins and Smithies under Cultural . . .
    Also . . Crimson, Heat and Chargers.

    And the Poca Dots . . . how can you NOT love that?

    Liked by 1 person

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