All About Oscar

Nancy Friedman
6 min readMar 10, 2023

The gold-plated statuette has been a fixture of the Academy Awards ceremony since 1929. But where did the Oscar get its name?

Janet Gaynor receives her Best Actress Oscar from Douglas Fairbanks at the first Academy Awards ceremony, held in 1929. Gaynor won for her performances in three silent films: “7th Heaven,” “Street Angel,” and “Sunrise.” She wore white tennis shoes to the ceremony. Getty Images

There will be scores of famous names at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 12. But one famous name will dominate: Oscar, the nickname by which the award statue has been officially known since 1939.

Exactly how and when the movies’ Oscar got its name is something of a mystery, with enough credible accounts to fill a miniseries. Here are the leading nominees:

The “Uncle Oscar” Story

This is the version most people have heard, courtesy of, the website of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has held trademarks for “Oscar” since 1988:

While the origins of the moniker aren’t clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar.

Herrick first saw the statuette on her first day on the job, in 1931; “Uncle Oscar” was in fact Herrick’s second cousin, Oscar Pierce, but old enough to have been called “uncle.”

Actress Bette Davis, no slouch at stealing the spotlight, also laid claim to a looks-like-Oscar story. Here’s how Anthony…



Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist, ex-journalist. @fritinancy on Mastodon, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and elsewhere.