Why Is an Academy Award Called an “Oscar”?

  • Oscar statuettes
Oscar statuettes
Credit: DEAN TREML/ AFP via Getty Images

One of Hollywood’s most famous figures stands at just 13.5 inches tall, weighs only 8.5 pounds, and goes by just one name: Oscar. The famous golden statuette is awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is one of the highest honors in the film industry. Like a lot of old Hollywood lore, there have been competing stories through the years about how the little gold statuette — officially named the Academy Award of Merit — got its human nickname. Here are some prevailing theories on how this prized statuette came to be known as “Oscar.”

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The Birth of the Little Gold Man

The first Academy Awards ceremony took place in May 1929 in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and introduced the gold-plated, solid-bronze statuette that has been an iconic Hollywood image ever since. Motion picture art director Cedric Gibbons designed it, and sculptor George Stanley brought to life the knight holding a crusader's sword, standing on a reel of film. The film reel’s five spokes represent the original five branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. 

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