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Chiraq or Chi Raq or Chi-Raq

What does Chiraq mean?

Chiraq is a nickname for Chicago, Illinois. It combines Chicago with Iraq, and is used to refer to certain violent areas in Chicago, likening them to a warzone.

image of Chiraq

Where does Chiraq come from?

Chicago rapper King Louie is credited with coining the term Chiraq in 2009. In 2011, King Louie released a mixtape titled Chiraq, Drillinois. Drillinois combines Illinois with drill, the subgenre of hip-hop that King Louie performs.

The term Chiraq gained traction in the press as violence in Chicago worsened. In 2012, the Daily Mail reported the misleading headline that more people were being murdered in Chicago than United States service members killed in Afghanistan. Mother Jones pointed out that although the absolute numbers were higher, the population of Chicago was much greater than the number of troops in Afghanistan and so the homicide rate was still lower in Chicago.

In 2013, Will Robson-Scott released a documentary titled Chi Raq about violence in Chicago.

Still, some people took pride in the comparison. In 2014, another Chicago rapper, Chief Keef, put out an album titled Chiraq Villain.

In 2015, Spike Lee released a movie about violence in Chicago titled Chi-Raq. The movie is a retelling of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, a story in which a community of women withholds sex to discourage their significant others from fighting. The title proved controversial, as had the term over nearly its entire life. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even asked Lee to change the title of the film.

Later that year, a TV pilot titled This is Not Chiraq screened at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago. The team behind This is Not Chiraq set out to “to portray a more complex human reality than [Spike Lee’s] controversial Chi-Raq.”

A few things to note…

Although Chicago rappers and their fans may call the city Chiraq with a sense of tough-guy pride, other Chicagoans may object to the name and the way it characterizes poor black neighborhoods. Chiraq is also sometimes used demeaningly by those who want to characterize urban areas and their inhabitants as violent.

For example…

“The retired chiraq savage @ChiefKeef just got a PLAQUE for is hit song #lovesosa .”

@Coldestheat Twitter (March 23, 2017)

“Cab: Where you from?

Me: Already knowing what he's going to say once I tell him.

Me: Chicago.

Cab: Omg, Chiraq?!”

@Borntodiethiswy Twitter (Mar 22, 2017)

“@JuddLegum Can we get geographic information? Chances are these killings are occuring in liberal hellholes like #Baltimore #Cleveland and #Chiraq”

@JRevanchist Twitter (March 13, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of Chiraq like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Chiraq that will help you expand your word mastery.