Popularized by Drake, it is both a reference to the number 6 that appears in both Toronto area codes (416 and 647) and the 6 original municipalities that made up Metro Toronto before amalgamation in 1998.
The 6ix (or “The 6”, or “The Six”) is a nickname for Toronto that appears in a number of songs by rapper (and Degrassi alum) Drake. According to Drake himself in a Tonight Show episode explained that it refers to the last digit of the primary Toronto area code – 416 – and to the 6 original cities/boroughs that made up Metropolitan Toronto before they were combined in 1998 – Etobicoke, Scarborough, York, East York, North York, and the City of Toronto.
He explains it in the following clip (around the 30 second mark).
Interestingly, it wasn’t actually Drake who came up with the nickname.
To be fair, Drake admits he didn’t come up with the nickname. He gave credit to its alleged creator by way of a hashtag – “#JimmyPrimeNamedIt” – on Instagram. (Jimmy Prime is a Toronto rapper with Drake ties.)
The first reference to “the 6” by Drake was an announcement in 2014 that an upcoming studio album would be named “Views From the 6” (later released as “Views”). Since then the nickname has really taken off, reaching ubiquity during the run-up to the 2018 NBA Finals.
Companies in Toronto have embraced the 6 and its various forms in many new business names. A quick Google search of Toronto for the name 6ix reveals the following names.
- 6ix (marketing agency)
- 6IX Cycle Spin Studio
- Dentistry in the 6ix
- Spotless in the 6ix (cleaning service)
- The 6ix Jamaican Cuisine
- Beauty in the 6ix
- 6IX MMA
- 6ix Photobooths
In the opinion of this author – a resident of the 6 – that the version of the name “The 6ix” is kind of dumb. When combining letters and numbers to spell out a word, 6 is rarely used as a substitute for the letter S. A lower case b maybe, but not an S. A 5 would work, but then you’d have “The 5ix” which is more confusing. When I see “The 6ix” in my head I hear it pronounced – The Sixix. We might as well live in the 4our, or the 7even. Ugh!
Since it doesn’t look like the nickname is going away any time soon, I guess I better get used to it. Especially if I need to stop off at the 6IX Cycle Spin Studio before I head over to my appointment at Denistry in the 6ix.