It seems like there are two different ways a person can earn a nickname in the
context of a gang. First, as elizabeth-ga mentioned, other members may create
a name for the individual based on some significant physical or personal
Gang members pride themselves in being given nicknames, or monikers, by the
gang. The moniker may highlight a physical characteristic, or some personal
The nicknames of gang members are frequently included within the graffiti,
often in a roll-call list or placa. These names may be simple, and typically
are descriptions of the appearance or personality of individual gang members:
Green Eyes, Casper, Smiley, Goofy, or other similar names.
In the second case, a person who wants to become a gang member may adopt a
nickname of his or her own creation and endeavor to make that name as publicly
known as possible by spreading the tag through methods such as graffiti. It
is also very common to have a nickname as part of a tattoo on the persons body.
) most taggers hope to join gangs and use tagging as a way to gain the
attention of gang members. (
) The more often their monikers appear in
different locations, the more publicity they receive.
The majority of youth gang members after initiation, or acceptance into the
gang, are tattooed, indicating their allegiance and affiliation. These tattoos
could be crude or elaborate. Most likely, the gang members monikers and/or the
gangs name will be involved in the tattoo.
For more information about tagging, see:
The word "tag" is short for "Turf Art Graffiti." A "tagger" is a graffiti
artist who takes a unique nickname and then puts the nickname on objects.
Sometimes taggers compete to place their names or slogans in visible locations.
The motivation behind tagging involves fame, artistic expression, power, and
rebellion--all integral parts of what has been referred to as the hip-hop
culture. Tagging may fill an even deeper void for youths without a strong sense
of personal identity. Interviews with taggers reveal a deep desire simply to be
known, to create an identity for themselves, and to communicate it to others.
) The thrill of risktaking also appears to be an underlying motivation for
I was not able to find a list of common gang nicknames. Again, as elizabeth-ga
states, the fact that so many of these monikers are based on a personal
characteristic may make them more or less unique. I did find an indication
that nicknames for female gang members may have a more easily recognizable
Female gang members also use nicknames or "handles", as they are often called
on the street. Prefixes such as "baby," "little," and "tiny" often accompany a
I also found some information about the possible purpose of monikers to a gang-
members and the gang structure itself:
In the world of gangs, you are not a true member until you have earned a
nickname. Most times, youth do not know the real names of members, just their
street names or nicknames. Life also tends to become very difficult for
involved youth without their fellow gang members. They tend to forget what
things were like before joining the gang.
Gang members use tattoos and graffiti to demonstrate what gang they belong to.
Younger members may use a pen or magic marker to draw the gang's name, their
nickname, or other gang slogans on themselves. Older individuals may "carve"
or "brand" gang related symbols or words into their skin. Symbols and words may
also be written on building walls, notebooks, backpacks, clothing, furniture,
and other personal possessions.
Some relevant URLs:
Street Gang Dynamics
National Youth Gang Center
San Luis Obispo County Gang Task Force
Google Directory: Society > Issues > Crime and Justice > Gangs > Gang Research
Search terms used:
gang identification nickname OR moniker
nickname OR moniker placa tag