The word νίκη nikē is of uncertain etymology. R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin. Others have connected it to Proto-Indo-European neik- (“to attack, start vehemently”), making it cognate with Greek νεῖκος (neikos, "strife") and Lithuanian ap-ni̇̀kti ("to attack").
In other sources, Nike was described as the daughter of Ares, the god of war.
Nike and her siblings were close companions of Zeus, the dominant deity of the Greek pantheon. According to classical (later) myth, Styx brought them to Zeus when the god was assembling allies for the Titanomachy against the older deities. Nike assumed the role of the divine charioteer, a role in which she often is portrayed in Classical Greek art. Nike flew around battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame, symbolized by a wreath of laurel leaves (bay leaves).
Nike is seen with wings in most statues and paintings, with one of the most famous being the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Most other winged deities in the Greek pantheon had shed their wings by Classical times. Nike is the goddess of strength, speed, and victory. Nike was a very close acquaintance of Athena, and is thought to have stood in Athena's outstretched hand in the statue of Athena located in the Parthenon. Nike is also one of the most commonly portrayed figures on Greek coins. After victory at the Battle of Marathon, Athenians erected the Nike of Callimachus.
Names stemming from Nike include among others: Nikolaos, Nicholas, Nicola, Nick, Nicolai, Niccolò, Nikolai, Nicolae, Nils, Klaas, Nicole, Ike, Niki, Nikita, Nikitas, Nika, Nieke, Naike, Niketas, Nikki, Nico, and Veronica.
- The sports equipment company Nike, Inc. is named after the Greek goddess Nike.
- Project Nike, an American anti-aircraft missile system is named after the goddess Nike. 
- Since Giuseppe Cassioli's design for the 1928 Summer Olympics, the obverse face of every Olympic medal bears Nike's figure holding a palm frond in her right hand and a winner's laurel crown in her left.
- The Honda motorcycle company's logo is inspired by the goddess Nike.