The Interesting Story Behind Why the Academy Awards Is Called “the Oscars”

Oscars statue
Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The Oscars and the Academy Awards have long been interchangeable names for the annual award ceremony honoring the year’s best in film, but they haven’t always been. In fact, the Academy Awards didn’t adopt their nickname until 1939, 10 years after their first award show.

So why do they call the statuette an Oscar? The origins of the term aren’t exactly clear, but the Academy has a theory as to how the name came to be. One popular story is that Margaret Herrick, an Academy librarian (and later executive director of the organization), saw the gilded trophy and remarked that it looked like her Uncle Oscar.

The nickname stuck—unofficially at first—and Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used the term in a story referring to Katharine Hepburn’s Best Actress win back in 1934. Five years later, the name was formally adopted by the Academy, and that's why they call it an Oscar.

VIDEO: Could You Afford to Go to the Oscars?

Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began in 1927, the group has given out 3,048 awards. The very first Oscar statuettes were sculpted by George Stanley, showing “a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword.” The reel has five spokes, representing the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. Standing at 13.5 inches tall and weighing 8.5 pounds, it’s heavier than you’d think.

The statues are made of solid bronze and plated in 24-karat gold—except during World War II’s metal shortage, when they were made of painted plaster. Between their hefty weight and golden plate, they make quite the mantel decoration for Hollywood’s finest. So who has the most Oscars? That would be Walt Disney, who earned a record 26 Academy Awards, including 22 technical wins and four honorary awards.

Get an up-close look at the best red-carpet fashion for LESS. Subscribe to InStyle now and save big during our limited-time Award Season Sale!

As for actors, the record is held by Katharine Hepburn, who has four wins. Hepburn took home Academy Awards for 1933’s Morning Glory, 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1968’s The Lion in Winter, and 1981’s On Golden Pond.

Her record, though, is in jeopardy of being tied this year. Both Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis have won three Oscars each, and are nominated again this year.

Tune in to the 2018 Academy Awards March 4 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC to see if they make history.

Related Articles