Why Are the Academy Awards Called the Oscars?

The Academy Awards are prestigious accolades, and winning one is a grand achievement for even the most accomplished film industry figure. A glitzy annual ceremony airs worldwide, and fans even hold watch parties. It’s a celebrated night for nominees and enthusiasts alike.

The awards are presented in 24 categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. And since the honor was introduced in 1929, it’s also been known as the Academy Award of Merit. So, why are Academy Awards called Oscars?

Academy Awards history, background, and memorable moments

At the 85th Annual Academy Awards, photographers cover the red-carpet arrivals at the Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013, in Hollywood, California
85th Annual Academy Awards red carpet | David McNew/Getty Images

According to Filmsite, the Academy Awards are the oldest film honors. TV viewers have become so accustomed to seeing the event that many fans might not wonder how it all began. Formed by more than 35 notable people in the motion picture industry, the award ceremony takes place annually. They created the honor almost a century ago to recognize outstanding achievements in motion picture production.

The awards started with 12 categories and grew in numbers and spectacle as the years passed.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the first gold-plated statuette following a voting process. Today, the Academy boasts nearly 10,000 members involved in all aspects of filmmaking.

In addition, there have been many memorable Academy Awards moments over the years. Some of the earliest include the awkward incident in 1933 when the wrong person took the stage to receive an award and the time in 1938 when an imposter took Alice Brady’s Best Supporting Actress Award, a mystery that’s still unsolved, History Extra reports. 

So, why are Academy Awards called Oscars?

You’ve probably heard “Academy Awards” and “Oscars” used interchangeably. But why?

According to Reader’s Digest, the honor’s official name is “Academy Award of Merit”; however, many people also call the gold statuette an “Oscar” and the ceremony “the Oscars.” Though no one knows exactly how the nickname came to be, there is one theory.

Legend has it that when the Academy librarian first saw the statuette, she noted it looked like her Uncle Oscar — with the same bald head and high cheekbones. The name stuck, and people have called the Academy Awards the Oscars ever since. 

Who has won the most Oscars?

Earning only one Oscar is a tremendous honor, but a few people have won multiple Academy Awards.

Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest winner isn’t a director or actor. Holding the record for the most gold statuettes is Walt Disney. The animation pioneer took home 26 Oscars and garnered a whopping 59 nominations.

Other big winners are actors Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Walter Brennan.

And here’s a fun fact: Katharine Hepburn notched four wins and eight nominations but never showed up to accept any of her awards.

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