Boeing 747 is commonly called Jumbo Jet.

How did it get this nickname and why other airplanes do not have nicknames?

Please note that I am not talking about official names, e.g, Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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    $\begingroup$ My local ATC calls the A380 a super Airbus $\endgroup$
    – segfault
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't the 787 also known as the Dreamliner? $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ The B-52 is the BUFF, the EMB-145 is the "jungle jet". They all have nicknames and google can tell you all of them. I have more commonly heard the 747 called a "whale" than a "jumbo jet". $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ Swearingen Metroliners used to be referred to as Lawn Darts and also as San Antonio Sewer Pipes. Aeronca Champions were referred to as Air Knockers. F-105s were called Thuds in reference to the number of them that "thudded" into a ridge near Hanoi that was appropriately named Thud Ridge and gave rise to a book of the same name. 737s were for a time called Fat Albert. I was always under the impression that the 747 got the Jumbo Jet nickname simply because when it first came out, it was the so uniquely bigger than anything else in passenger service at the time. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a fairly extensive list: b737.org.uk/aircraftnicknames.htm $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2015 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


How Boeing 747 is called Jumbo Jet?

The Boeing 747 is the world's first wide-body aircraft. For a long time, it was the world's largest passenger aircraft1. When Boeing was designing the 747 in mid-1960s, it expected that in the near future supersonic travel would become the norm. Hence, there would not be a need for the passenger version of 747. Because of this, 747s were designed in a way that they can be easily converted into freighters.

Pan Am, being one of the first customers of 747, wanted to fit two rows of cargo containers2, instead of one. This meant that the fuselage had to be at least 16 feet wide, wider than any airliner at that time. This would have worked fine for cargo, but it would make loading and unloading passengers very time-consuming. To accommodate this, Boeing engineers designed two aisles, which ran parallel through the length of the aircraft, hence the term wide-body was coined.

When the press noticed the huge size, they described it with the catchy term Jumbo Jet. It is also known as Queen of the Skies but that is not common.

Do other airplanes have nicknames?

Airbus A380 dubbed as superjumbo by media. The only A380 sold as a business jet is called Flying Palace.

Although there aren't official nicknames of airplanes, almost all airplanes earned some nick names. This list contains nicknames for mostly military aircraft.

1 Airbus 380 took over as world's largest passenger airplane in 2007.
2 At that time, cargo containers were cubes that measured 8 feet (2.44 m) per side.

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    $\begingroup$ Didn't the 747 start as a competitor to the Lockheed C-5? Boeing had the government fund the early development, and the raised cockpit still bears witness of that today. But they also wanted their military airlifter to be converted to a passenger airplane and chose a low wing design. To load that, you need to fold up the nose and move the cockpit out of the way. Lockheed went for a purely military-oriented layout with high wings and a rear ramp, similar to the C-141, and won the competition. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf: Reading the wikipedia article I get the impression that it was kind of both. They had military requirements and they had PanAm requirements and they kinda matched enough so that they could reuse much of development. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ a lot of aircraft have official nicknames, especially military ones. The term "dreamliner" for the 787 was coined by Boeing's marketing department for example. Many aircraft even have more than one nickname, like the A-10 which is officially called "Thunderbolt II" but known to its crews as "Warthog" or simply "Hog". $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 5:50

The "jumbo jet" moniker isn't exclusive to the 747, but is applied to any large commercial jet - the L-1011 and DC-10 (if I'm recalling the model names correctly) were also called "jumbo jets", as is the large Airbus. It's just that the 747 was much more successful than its early competitors.

Other aircraft which are called "jumbo jets" are listed here.

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    $\begingroup$ I find it interesting that Wikipedia says " 'Jumbo jet' redirects here" on the Wide-body aircraft article and " 'Jumbo Jet' redirects here" on the Boeing 747 article. Apparently "Jumbo Jet" was indeed a nickname of the 747 before the term started being used to refer to any wide-body aircraft. And, yes, L-1011 and DC-10 were both also wide-bodies that competed with the 747, but the 747 was first. The DC-10 was actually fairly successful selling. It sold 445 through 1988 vs. 711 for the B747. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab: Still, "jumbo jet" always was a generic term for a large passenger aircraft. It's just more common to see it used WRT the 747 because a) it was the first one; and b) there are a lot more of them flying. I don't think either the DC-10 or L-1011 are still used for passenger service. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 5:14
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, they're not. They're just used for cargo these days, when they're used at all. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 7:12

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