New York sayings & Slang Glossary


Welcome to our comprehensive New York slang, sayings and phrase glossary! 🚋🏘💈

New York isn’t just about skyscrapers and Broadway; it’s alive with a unique array of slang that can stump even the most streetwise individuals. Here, we’ve assembled the most iconic New York slang terms, each explained with their meanings, origins, and illustrative examples. Whether you’re a lifelong New Yorker or just passing through, this guide will introduce you to the linguistic heartbeat of the Big Apple. Dive in and converse with the authenticity of a genuine New Yorker! Without holding back, here’s our comprehensive list of New York slang, sayings, and phrases:

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Z

Trouble finding a certain phrase? Click control + F on your keyboard, and type in the term you’re trying to find. Still not able to find it? Let us know down in the comments below!

A

A-train

  • Meaning: Refers to the A subway line in New York City.
  • Origin: Named after the actual subway line that runs from upper Manhattan through Brooklyn to Far Rockaway in Queens.
  • Usage: “I’m taking the A-train to get to Brooklyn.”

Apple

  • Meaning: A nickname for New York City, often termed “The Big Apple.”
  • Origin: The term was popularized in the 1920s by sports writer John J. Fitz Gerald. It’s believed to have derived from references to New York City’s horse races as the major leagues or “the big apple”.
  • Usage: “I’m visiting the Apple next weekend.”

Ace

  • Meaning: A friend or buddy.
  • Origin: Has been used in English to mean a single unit since the 1300s. By the 1800s, “ace” began to signify someone top-notch or number one, translating to a close friend.
  • Usage: “Hey ace, how’ve you been?”

All that and a bag of chips

  • Meaning: Something better than great or someone overly self-confident.
  • Origin: Became popular in the 1990s, implying something isn’t just great, but comes with a bonus (the “bag of chips”).
  • Usage: “She thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips.”

Agita

  • Meaning: Anxiety, agitation, or an upset stomach.
  • Origin: From Italian “agitare,” meaning “to agitate.”
  • Usage: “This traffic jam is giving me agita.”

Around the way

  • Meaning: From the nearby area or neighborhood.
  • Origin: Urban lingo, denoting someone or something from one’s home turf.
  • Usage: “I know him, he’s from around the way.”

Alphabet City

  • Meaning: Refers to the avenues in the East Village of Manhattan which are named from A to D.
  • Origin: Named after the avenues A, B, C, and D, the only lettered avenues in Manhattan.
  • Usage: “She moved to Alphabet City last year.”

Amtrak

  • Meaning: A significant train service providing transportation between US cities.
  • Origin: Short for “American Track.” Established in 1971.
  • Usage: “I’m catching the Amtrak to D.C. tomorrow.”

Awning

  • Meaning: The overhead structure often found outside buildings or shops to shelter people from rain or sun.
  • Origin: Derived from the actual structure found widely across the city.
  • Usage: “Let’s stand under the awning until the rain stops.”

AX

  • Meaning: Short for “American Express,” a credit card company.
  • Origin: Abbreviation of the company’s name.
  • Usage: “Do you accept AX?”

ATM

  • Meaning: Automated Teller Machine, where you can withdraw or deposit money.
  • Origin: Acronym for the machine’s official name.
  • Usage: “I need to find an ATM before we head to the restaurant.”

Alternative Side

  • Meaning: Refers to the parking regulations in New York City which require vehicles to be moved from street sides at specific times for street cleaning.
  • Origin: Derives from the city’s street cleaning regulations.
  • Usage: “I have to move my car because of alternative side parking tomorrow.”

Apizza

  • Meaning: Another term for pizza, often pronounced “ah-beetz.”
  • Origin: The term has its roots in the Neapolitan dialect of Italian.
  • Usage: “Let’s grab an apizza from that place downtown.”

Art Deco

  • Meaning: A style of visual arts, architecture, and design that became popular in the 1920s and 1930s; many NYC buildings, like the Chrysler Building, are designed in this style.
  • Origin: Short for “Arts Décoratifs” from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925.
  • Usage: “The Empire State Building is a prime example of Art Deco architecture.”

Assed Out

  • Meaning: Being out of luck or missing out on something.
  • Origin: Urban slang, exact origins are hard to pin down.
  • Usage: “I waited too long to buy tickets and now I’m assed out.”

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B

Bodega

  • Meaning: A small grocery store, often found on street corners in New York City.
  • Origin: The term “bodega” is Spanish for “cellar” or “warehouse”. In NYC, it has come to mean a local convenience store.
  • Usage: “I’m running to the bodega to grab some milk.”

The Bronx

  • Meaning: One of the five boroughs of New York City.
  • Origin: Named after Jonas Bronck, an early settler from Denmark in the 1600s.
  • Usage: “She’s from The Bronx; she grew up near Yankee Stadium.”

The Boogie Down

  • Meaning: Another name for The Bronx.
  • Origin: Derived from the term “Boogaloo”, a style of Latin music and dance from the 1960s. Became popularized as a reference to The Bronx’s vibrant music scene.
  • Usage: “Heading up to the Boogie Down this weekend.”

Brick

  • Meaning: Extremely cold weather.
  • Origin: Slang likely derived from the idea that being hit with a brick feels cold/shocking.
  • Usage: “Wear your thick jacket, it’s brick outside.”

Bridge and Tunnel or B&T

  • Meaning: A somewhat derogatory term referring to people who come to Manhattan from other boroughs or New Jersey for leisure activities.
  • Origin: Refers to the bridges and tunnels these people use to get into Manhattan.
  • Usage: “The bar was packed with the bridge and tunnel crowd last night.”

Brooklyn Bridge

  • Meaning: A famous bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named after the borough it connects to Manhattan.
  • Usage: “Let’s walk the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.”

Bagel

  • Meaning: A popular bread product in NYC, often eaten with cream cheese.
  • Origin: The bagel is of Jewish origin and became a staple in NYC due to its significant Jewish population.
  • Usage: “Grab a bagel from the deli on your way here.”

Borough

  • Meaning: Any of the five major administrative divisions in New York City: Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.
  • Origin: From the Old English “burh”, meaning “fortified town”.
  • Usage: “Which borough do you live in?”

BK

  • Meaning: Short for Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Simply an abbreviation of the borough’s name.
  • Usage: “I’m heading to BK for a concert.”

Broadway

  • Meaning: A major road in NYC known worldwide for its theaters and musical productions.
  • Origin: From the Dutch word “brede weg” meaning “broad way”.
  • Usage: “We got tickets for a show on Broadway.”

The Big City

  • Meaning: Another name for New York City.
  • Origin: Refers to the vastness and bustling nature of NYC.
  • Usage: “He moved to the Big City to chase his dreams.”

Baller

  • Meaning: Someone who has made it big, usually in sports or business, and lives a lavish lifestyle.
  • Origin: Derived from basketball players who earn significant salaries.
  • Usage: “With that new promotion, he’s a total baller now.”

Bust

  • Meaning: A failure or flop.
  • Origin: Likely derived from “busted”, meaning broken.
  • Usage: “That movie was a total bust.”

Beemer/Bimmer

  • Meaning: Slang for a BMW car.
  • Origin: Derived from the abbreviation of Bayerische Motoren Werke, the company that manufactures BMW.
  • Usage: “He drove up in a shiny new Beemer.”

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C

Cabbie

  • Meaning: A taxi driver.
  • Origin: Shortened version of the term “cab driver.”
  • Usage: “The cabbie gave me a tour of the city while driving me to the hotel.”

The City

  • Meaning: Refers to Manhattan.
  • Origin: Manhattan, being the oldest and the historical core of the Big Apple, is often referred to as “The City” by New Yorkers from other boroughs.
  • Usage: “I work in The City but live in Queens.”

Coney Island

  • Meaning: A residential Brooklyn neighborhood that is well-known for its amusement parks and boardwalk.
  • Origin: Originally named Conyne Eylandt (Rabbit Island) by the Dutch.
  • Usage: “We spent the day at Coney Island riding roller coasters.”

Chopped Cheese

  • Meaning: A type of sandwich made from ground beef, onions, and melted cheese.
  • Origin: Originated in Harlem and has become a staple in many NYC delis.
  • Usage: “I’ll take a chopped cheese on a roll, please.”

Central Park

  • Meaning: A large park in the middle of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it opened in 1858.
  • Usage: “Let’s have a picnic in Central Park.”

Cornerstone

  • Meaning: An essential part or feature of something.
  • Origin: Refers to the principal stone placed at the corner of a building.
  • Usage: “Jazz is the cornerstone of New York’s musical history.”

Cop a Squat

  • Meaning: To sit down.
  • Origin: “Cop” is slang for “get” or “take”, while “squat” is to sit.
  • Usage: “Cop a squat over there while I get our drinks.”

Cross-town

  • Meaning: Something that goes from one side of the city to the other, usually referring to buses or traffic.
  • Origin: Referring to traveling across the width of Manhattan.
  • Usage: “Take the cross-town bus to get to the museum.”

Chelsea

  • Meaning: A neighborhood on the West Side of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Named after the Federal-style house of the Moore family, called the “Chelsea estate”.
  • Usage: “She has a beautiful loft in Chelsea.”

Crusties

  • Meaning: A term sometimes used to describe young, often homeless, individuals with a particular unkempt style, sometimes associated with punk or “gutter punk” subcultures.
  • Origin: Refers to the “crusty” or dirty appearance.
  • Usage: “I saw a group of crusties hanging out in the park.”

Clip

  • Meaning: Fast or quickly.
  • Origin: Likely comes from the rapid pace of a film clip.
  • Usage: “We need to move at a good clip to get there on time.”

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D

Deadass

  • Meaning: Seriously; for real.
  • Origin: Originated in the NYC hip-hop scene.
  • Usage: “I’m deadass hungry right now.”

D Train

  • Meaning: A train service in the New York City Subway system.
  • Origin: Part of the NYC subway’s naming/numbering system.
  • Usage: “I take the D train to get to the Bronx.”

Dollar Slice

  • Meaning: A slice of pizza that costs one dollar.
  • Origin: Many pizzerias in NYC offer affordable pizza slices for a dollar, especially in Manhattan.
  • Usage: “I only have a few bucks on me, so let’s grab a dollar slice.”

Downstate

  • Meaning: Refers to the southern parts of New York, including New York City.
  • Origin: Geographic term in contrast to upstate New York.
  • Usage: “She’s from downstate, near Brooklyn.”

Downtown

  • Meaning: Refers to the southern portion of Manhattan or the central or main part of a city.
  • Origin: Common urban term indicating direction relative to the city center.
  • Usage: “We’re meeting downtown near the Financial District.”

Drop a Dime

  • Meaning: To inform or snitch on someone.
  • Origin: Refers to the cost of a phone call being a dime, especially for payphones.
  • Usage: “Someone dropped a dime on him, and now he’s in trouble.”

Do the Bridge

  • Meaning: To travel over one of the city’s bridges, often the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Origin: NYC is known for its iconic bridges.
  • Usage: “It’s a nice day; let’s do the bridge by foot.”

Dyker Lights

  • Meaning: Refers to the elaborate Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Started in the 1980s, Dyker Heights residents began putting up large, extravagant holiday light displays.
  • Usage: “Every December we visit the Dyker Lights to get into the holiday spirit.”

Dumbo

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in Brooklyn located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
  • Origin: Acronym for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.”
  • Usage: “Dumbo has some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline.”

Double-Parked

  • Meaning: Temporarily parking a car next to a row of parked cars, often while waiting for someone.
  • Origin: Literal description of the action, a common sight in busy parts of NYC.
  • Usage: “I’ll be right out, I’m just double-parked.”

Down by Law

  • Meaning: To be authentic or credible.
  • Origin: Hip-hop and street culture.
  • Usage: “He’s been around for years, he’s down by law.”

Driggs

  • Meaning: Refers to Driggs Avenue, a primary street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named after 19th-century politician Edmund Driggs.
  • Usage: “I have a friend who lives off of Driggs; it’s a lively area.”

Dutch

  • Meaning: Going Dutch means splitting the bill equally among participants.
  • Origin: Thought to be a reference to Dutch frugality.
  • Usage: “Let’s go Dutch on this meal since we all shared.”

Dap

  • Meaning: A form of handshake, usually more intricate than the traditional one.
  • Origin: African American communities in the 1970s.
  • Usage: “He greeted me with a dap I had never seen before.”

Dukes

  • Meaning: Fists.
  • Origin: Possibly from the rhyming slang “Duke of Yorks” for forks, which then became hands or fists.
  • Usage: “Put up your dukes and fight fair.”

Dun

  • Meaning: A term of endearment or address, similar to “dude” or “man.”
  • Origin: Popularized in NYC hip-hop, especially by rapper Nas.
  • Usage: “What’s good, dun?”

Down to Ride

  • Meaning: Willing to help or support, especially in challenging situations.
  • Origin: Comes from the idea of being ready to join a ride or mission, no matter where it goes.
  • Usage: “I know you’re in a tight spot, but I’m down to ride.”

Deli Coffee

  • Meaning: The simple, usually cheap coffee you buy at local delis.
  • Origin: A staple in NYC due to the prevalence of delis.
  • Usage: “I don’t need fancy coffee; deli coffee is perfect for me.”

Deuce

  • Meaning: Refers to Times Square, as in “the deuce.”
  • Origin: From “42nd” as in 42nd Street, one of the main streets in Times Square.
  • Usage: “I’m meeting a friend in the deuce later tonight.”

Don

  • Meaning: A person who’s respected or is a leader in their field.
  • Origin: From Spanish ‘don’ which means ‘sir’ or ‘Mr.’, used as a title of respect.
  • Usage: “Jay-Z is a don in the hip-hop world.”

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E

Empire State

  • Meaning: A nickname for New York, but most often refers to the Empire State Building.
  • Origin: New York’s official nickname is “The Empire State”, due to its wealth and resources.
  • Usage: “Have you ever been to the top of the Empire State?”

East Side

  • Meaning: Refers to the eastern side of Manhattan, separated by Central Park.
  • Origin: Geographic location.
  • Usage: “She has a chic apartment on the East Side.”

Elevator Music

  • Meaning: Background music that’s perceived to be unobtrusive or mundane.
  • Origin: Such music was often played in elevators, especially in NYC’s tall buildings.
  • Usage: “This song is so boring, sounds like elevator music to me.”

El

  • Meaning: Short for “elevated train.”
  • Origin: Used to describe subway lines that run above ground.
  • Usage: “Take the el if you want a scenic route.”

Evicted

  • Meaning: Kicked out, often used in the context of housing.
  • Origin: Legal term for when a tenant is removed from a property.
  • Usage: “Man, if I don’t pay rent soon, I’ll get evicted.”

Everything Bagel

  • Meaning: A bagel variety topped with a mixture of several toppings like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, etc.
  • Origin: Popularized in NYC’s numerous bagel shops.
  • Usage: “I’ll have an everything bagel with cream cheese.”

E-ZPass

  • Meaning: An electronic toll payment system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels.
  • Origin: Introduced in 1987 in New York City to ease congestion by allowing for electronic toll collection.
  • Usage: “I don’t wait in toll lines; I’ve got an E-ZPass.”

East River

  • Meaning: The saltwater tidal strait in New York City.
  • Origin: Geographic location separating Brooklyn and Manhattan.
  • Usage: “There’s a great view of the East River from this cafe.”

Express

  • Meaning: A direct subway train that doesn’t stop at all stations.
  • Origin: NYC subway system terminology.
  • Usage: “If you’re in a hurry, take the express train.”

Eny

  • Meaning: Abbreviation for East New York, a residential neighborhood in Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named for its location in the eastern part of Brooklyn.
  • Usage: “He grew up in Eny but moved to Queens later.”

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F

Five Boroughs

  • Meaning: The five main areas that make up New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
  • Origin: Administrative divisions of NYC.
  • Usage: “I want to visit all five boroughs during my trip.”

Flatbush

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in the central part of Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Originally Dutch, from vlacke bos, meaning “flat forest” or “wooded plain.”
  • Usage: “My aunt lives in Flatbush, close to the park.”

FiDi

  • Meaning: Short for the Financial District in Manhattan.
  • Origin: Abbreviation of the neighborhood’s primary industry.
  • Usage: “Many banking professionals have offices in FiDi.”

Forget about it (often pronounced “fuhgeddaboudit”)

  • Meaning: “It’s not a big deal,” “you’re welcome,” or “no way.”
  • Origin: Part of the NYC vernacular, especially associated with Brooklyn and Italian-American dialect.
  • Usage: “You did that for me? Thanks!” “Forget about it!”

Fulton

  • Meaning: Refers to Fulton Street, which runs from Lower Manhattan to East New York.
  • Origin: Named after Robert Fulton, an engineer who introduced steam-powered ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
  • Usage: “Meet me at Fulton; we’ll grab a coffee.”

Food Cart

  • Meaning: Mobile kitchen that sells street food, like hot dogs, pretzels, and more.
  • Origin: A staple of NYC culture providing quick and affordable food options.
  • Usage: “The best gyros come from that food cart on the corner.”

F train

  • Meaning: One of the subway lines serving NYC.
  • Origin: Part of the NYC subway system operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
  • Usage: “You can take the F train to reach Coney Island.”

Flash Mob

  • Meaning: A large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a brief time, then disperse.
  • Origin: The term and the trend became popular in the 2000s and NYC saw many of these performances.
  • Usage: “Did you see that flash mob in Times Square? It was epic!”

Fashion Week

  • Meaning: An industry event where designers display their latest collections in runway shows.
  • Origin: NYC is one of the major cities worldwide that hosts a Fashion Week, showcasing both established and emerging designers.
  • Usage: “Traffic is crazy during Fashion Week; so many events happening.”

FDNY

  • Meaning: Acronym for the Fire Department of New York.
  • Origin: Official designation for the city’s fire department, established in 1865.
  • Usage: “There was a small fire in the building, but the FDNY handled it quickly.”

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G

G-Manhattan Bridge

  • Meaning: Refers to the G subway line which connects Queens to Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Part of the NYC subway system operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
  • Usage: “I usually take the G when I’m heading to Greenpoint.”

Gotham

  • Meaning: A nickname for New York City.
  • Origin: Originally a term coined by Washington Irving in 1807 in his satirical periodical, Salmagundi.
  • Usage: “Gotham has always been my home.”

Garment District

  • Meaning: An area in Manhattan known for its dense concentration of fashion-related businesses.
  • Origin: Derived from the concentration of garment manufacturers and showrooms in the area.
  • Usage: “You’ll find many fashion wholesalers in the Garment District.”

Greenpoint

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in the northernmost part of Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named for its green peninsular location jutting into the East River.
  • Usage: “There are so many great Polish restaurants in Greenpoint.”

Ground Zero

  • Meaning: The site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood before the 9/11 attacks.
  • Origin: Initially, the term was used to describe the point on the Earth’s surface directly beneath an exploding bomb, but after 9/11, it became associated with the WTC site.
  • Usage: “The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero is a poignant reminder of that tragic day.”

Gentrification

  • Meaning: A shift in an urban community toward wealthier residents and businesses, leading to an increase in property values.
  • Origin: A socio-economic shift observed in many NYC neighborhoods over time.
  • Usage: “Brooklyn has undergone massive gentrification over the past two decades.”

Grid Plan

  • Meaning: The layout of New York City streets, especially in Manhattan, based on a grid of horizontal and vertical roads.
  • Origin: Adopted in the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811.
  • Usage: “Thanks to the grid plan, it’s really hard to get lost in Manhattan.”

Grub

  • Meaning: Slang for food.
  • Origin: General English slang that is widely used in NYC as well.
  • Usage: “After the game, let’s grab some grub at that deli.”

Grand Central

  • Meaning: Refers to Grand Central Terminal, a major train station in Manhattan.
  • Origin: Named for the central location and grand architecture of the terminal.
  • Usage: “I’m catching a train from Grand Central to Connecticut.”

Goon

  • Meaning: A bully or thug.
  • Origin: Possibly derived from “gony,” an old English word for a simpleton, but its modern usage leans towards describing a tough or rough person.
  • Usage: “He hired some goon to collect the debt.”

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H

Harlem

  • Meaning: A large neighborhood in the northern section of New York City borough of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands by Dutch settlers.
  • Usage: “Harlem is known for its rich cultural history, especially during the Harlem Renaissance.”

Hot dog

  • Meaning: A cooked sausage served in a sliced roll.
  • Origin: While hot dogs are enjoyed nationwide, they have a special place in NYC culture with street vendors and iconic eateries.
  • Usage: “When in NYC, you have to try a street hot dog.”

Hipster

  • Meaning: Someone who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.
  • Origin: Originally a term from the 1940s, its modern connotation began in the 2000s and is associated with areas in Brooklyn like Williamsburg.
  • Usage: “Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood is often associated with hipster culture.”

Hell’s Kitchen

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in Manhattan, located between 34th Street and 59th Street from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River.
  • Origin: The origin of the name is disputed, but it’s been known as Hell’s Kitchen since the 1880s.
  • Usage: “There are some great off-Broadway theaters in Hell’s Kitchen.”

High Line

  • Meaning: An elevated linear park in NYC created on a former New York Central Railroad spur.
  • Origin: The High Line was repurposed as a park in 2009, turning a disused rail line into an urban oasis.
  • Usage: “Let’s take a stroll on the High Line, the views of the city are amazing there.”

Hustle

  • Meaning: Busy movement and activity; to obtain by forceful action or persuasion.
  • Origin: General slang term popularized in urban settings, NYC’s fast pace makes it a fitting term.
  • Usage: “You’ve got to hustle if you want to make it in this city.”

Hooky

  • Meaning: Truancy, especially from school; to skip school or work without permission.
  • Origin: An Americanism from the late 19th century, common in many parts of the US but especially relevant in the context of NYC’s school system.
  • Usage: “He’s playing hooky today, haven’t seen him all day.”

Hudson

  • Meaning: Referring to the Hudson River, which flows through Eastern New York.
  • Origin: Named after Henry Hudson, an English sea explorer and navigator.
  • Usage: “The view of the Hudson is spectacular from this bridge.”

Heights (as in Washington Heights)

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in the northern portion of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Named for Fort Washington, a fortification during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Usage: “She lives up in the Heights; loves the culture and community there.”

Hype

  • Meaning: Intense excitement or promotion about something.
  • Origin: Derived from hyperbole, indicating exaggerated claims.
  • Usage: “There’s a lot of hype around that new Broadway show.”

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I

In a New York minute

  • Meaning: Very quickly; in a brief moment.
  • Origin: This phrase emphasizes the fast-paced nature of life in New York City.
  • Usage: “I’d accept that job offer in a New York minute!”

Iron Horse

  • Meaning: A term for the subway or trains in NYC.
  • Origin: The term originally referred to steam trains, but in NYC it became associated with the subway.
  • Usage: “I’m taking the iron horse downtown.”

Islanders

  • Meaning: Refers to the New York Islanders, a professional ice hockey team based in the New York metropolitan area.
  • Origin: Named for Long Island, where they originally played.
  • Usage: “Are you going to the Islanders game tonight?”

Italian ice

  • Meaning: A sweet frozen dessert made from fruit (or artificial flavoring) and sugar.
  • Origin: This treat has its roots in Italy but has been popularized in various forms across NYC, especially in summer.
  • Usage: “It’s sweltering out here, let’s get some Italian ice.”

In the weeds

  • Meaning: Overwhelmed or behind in one’s work, especially in the restaurant business.
  • Origin: Likely originated from golf, where being “in the weeds” literally meant being off the fairway. It’s now common in many busy NYC restaurants.
  • Usage: “Sorry I can’t chat, I’m totally in the weeds tonight.”

IRT

  • Meaning: Interborough Rapid Transit, the original subway system in New York City.
  • Origin: The IRT was the private operator of the original underground NYC subway line that opened in 1904.
  • Usage: “This old map shows the IRT routes.”

Indie

  • Meaning: Referring to independent music or films, commonly associated with Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and other hip neighborhoods.
  • Origin: Short for “independent”, indicating production outside of major labels or studios.
  • Usage: “There’s an indie film festival happening in Williamsburg this weekend.”

Icebox

  • Meaning: An old term for a refrigerator.
  • Origin: Before modern refrigeration, people kept their food cold in insulated boxes containing blocks of ice.
  • Usage: “Put the milk back in the icebox.”

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J

J-walking

  • Meaning: Crossing the street illegally or without regard for traffic rules.
  • Origin: The term “jay” used to mean a naive or foolish person, so “j-walking” meant walking like a jay, unaware of traffic.
  • Usage: “Watch out for cops when you’re j-walking. They’ve been cracking down lately.”

Jets

  • Meaning: Refers to the New York Jets, a professional football team.
  • Origin: Originally named the New York Titans, they changed their name in 1963 to the Jets, probably because of the team’s stadium proximity to LaGuardia Airport.
  • Usage: “Did you catch the Jets game last Sunday?”

Jones Beach

  • Meaning: A popular public beach on the south shore of Long Island.
  • Origin: Named after the barrier island it is on, Jones Beach has been a go-to spot for New Yorkers since the 1920s.
  • Usage: “We’re heading out to Jones Beach this weekend for some sun.”

Juice

  • Meaning: Respect or credibility.
  • Origin: Originated from Black and Latino communities in NYC in the late 20th century. Gaining “juice” meant gaining respect.
  • Usage: “After he stood up to the bullies, he got a lot of juice in the neighborhood.”

Junior’s

  • Meaning: Famous restaurant and bakery known for its cheesecake.
  • Origin: Junior’s was founded by Harry Rosen in 1950 in Downtown Brooklyn.
  • Usage: “If you want the best cheesecake, you’ve got to go to Junior’s.”

Jumping the turnstile

  • Meaning: Entering the subway without paying, usually by hopping over the turnstile.
  • Origin: The act of literally jumping over the turnstiles in subway stations to avoid fare.
  • Usage: “I saw a guy get caught jumping the turnstile today.”

John

  • Meaning: A bathroom or toilet.
  • Origin: Origin unclear but has been used in this context since the 1930s.
  • Usage: “Where’s the john in this place?”

Johnny pump

  • Meaning: Another term for a fire hydrant.
  • Origin: Possibly a corruption of the term “joining pump”, as they are joined to the main water supply.
  • Usage: “Kids were playing in the water from the johnny pump during the hot summer day.”

Jungle

  • Meaning: Refers to a cluttered, messy area in the city, often where homeless people might set up temporary shelters.
  • Origin: Likely derived from the chaotic and dense nature of jungles, used metaphorically for certain urban areas.
  • Usage: “He lives deep in the jungle, you’ll have a hard time finding him.”

Jam-packed

  • Meaning: Extremely crowded or full.
  • Origin: “Jam” in this context refers to a large group of people or things crowded together.
  • Usage: “The subway is jam-packed during rush hour.”

Jitney

  • Meaning: A small bus or a shared taxi that carries passengers for a low fare.
  • Origin: Originally meant a nickel, which was the fare for a short ride on a small passenger vehicle in the early 20th century.
  • Usage: “I took a jitney from the station to the beach.”

Joint

  • Meaning: A place, can refer to a home, or a local restaurant or bar.
  • Origin: General American slang that’s been adopted widely.
  • Usage: “Let’s hit that joint after work for some grub.”

Jack

  • Meaning: Money.
  • Origin: General U.S. slang. The term “jack” has been used to refer to money since the early 19th century.
  • Usage: “I need to make some jack if I’m gonna make rent this month.”

Jawing

  • Meaning: Talking, often in a casual or aimless manner.
  • Origin: To “jaw” is to talk or chat, derived from the movement of the jaw when speaking.
  • Usage: “Stop jawing and get to work!”

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K

Kicks

  • Meaning: Shoes, especially sneakers.
  • Origin: Derived from the action of “kicking” with one’s foot.
  • Usage: “Check out my new kicks! Got them on sale downtown.”

Knuckle up

  • Meaning: To prepare to fight, usually by making a fist.
  • Origin: Refers to the act of clenching one’s fingers into a fist, thus showing the knuckles.
  • Usage: “Those two are about to knuckle up outside the bar.”

Knockoff

  • Meaning: A cheap or inferior copy of a popular product.
  • Origin: Refers to the idea of “knocking off” or copying a design or product.
  • Usage: “She bought a knockoff designer purse from that street vendor.”

Keep it 100

  • Meaning: To be honest or genuine; keeping it real.
  • Origin: Refers to the idea of giving or being a 100%, meaning all-in or completely genuine.
  • Usage: “I always respect him because he keeps it 100, no matter what.”

Knickerbocker

  • Meaning: A native or inhabitant of New York.
  • Origin: Derived from the name of the Dutch settlers who came to the New World, specifically to what is now New York.
  • Usage: “As a true Knickerbocker, I know the city like the back of my hand.”

Killin’ it

  • Meaning: Doing an excellent job or performing exceptionally well.
  • Origin: “Killing” in this context refers to dominating or performing exceptionally well in a task.
  • Usage: “Did you see her performance last night? She was killin’ it!”

Kickback

  • Meaning: A relaxed gathering or party. Also refers to a bribe in some contexts.
  • Origin: “Kick back” traditionally means to relax or recline, hence the term for a relaxed gathering. The bribery context probably comes from the idea of “kicking” something “back” to someone as a payoff.
  • Usage: “We’re having a small kickback at my place later if you want to come.”

Katz’s

  • Meaning: Referring to Katz’s Delicatessen, an iconic New York deli famous for its pastrami sandwiches.
  • Origin: Named after its founders, the Katz family.
  • Usage: “If you’re in the mood for a good sandwich, let’s hit up Katz’s.”

Kingpin

  • Meaning: A person who is the leader in their particular field, especially in crime.
  • Origin: Originally a bowling term, referring to the main pin. In crime, it signifies the main person or leader.
  • Usage: “He’s the kingpin of the underground scene in Brooklyn.”

Kitted out

  • Meaning: Dressed up or equipped with the best of everything.
  • Origin: “Kit” refers to a set of items or equipment. When one is “kitted out,” they have the best equipment or attire.
  • Usage: “He came to the party fully kitted out, wearing designer everything.”

Knee-slapper

  • Meaning: Something that is hilariously funny.
  • Origin: The physical act of slapping one’s knee in response to a joke.
  • Usage: “That joke he told was a real knee-slapper!”

Kosher

  • Meaning: Legitimate or genuine; also refers to food that adheres to Jewish dietary laws.
  • Origin: Yiddish term referring to food prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.
  • Usage: “Don’t worry, the deal’s kosher.” or “Is this restaurant kosher?”

Krumping

  • Meaning: A type of street dance popularized in the U.S. known for its expressive and intense movements.
  • Origin: Emerged from the African-American and Hispanic communities of South Central Los Angeles in the early 2000s.
  • Usage: “There’s a krumping battle downtown tonight.”

Kibosh

  • Meaning: To put an end to; stop.
  • Origin: Uncertain, but it’s been a part of English slang since the early 19th century. It’s been suggested that it might have Yiddish or Irish origins.
  • Usage: “The rain really put the kibosh on our picnic plans.”

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L

L-train

  • Meaning: A specific subway line running through Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named after the subway service that uses this line.
  • Usage: “I missed the L-train and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one.”

Lit

  • Meaning: Something that’s excellent, exciting, or popular.
  • Origin: Originally a slang term for “intoxicated” in the 1910s. Its meaning evolved over time.
  • Usage: “Last night’s party was totally lit!”

Lock it in

  • Meaning: Confirm or finalize something.
  • Origin: Possibly derived from locking in a choice or decision.
  • Usage: “We’re going to that concert next week, right? Lock it in!”

Lowkey

  • Meaning: Something subtle, quiet, or not to be shared widely; alternatively, to a small extent.
  • Origin: Combining “low” and “key,” suggesting not drawing attention.
  • Usage: “I lowkey love that old TV show.”

Lounge

  • Meaning: Living room or a place to relax.
  • Origin: From the old French word “s’allonger” meaning to recline.
  • Usage: “Let’s chill in the lounge.”

Lush

  • Meaning: Someone who drinks a lot or something plush and luxurious.
  • Origin: Middle English term for “lax or soft” which later described heavy drinkers.
  • Usage: “That hotel room is so lush!” or “Don’t be such a lush.”

Loft

  • Meaning: A room or space directly under the roof of a building, used for accommodation or storage.
  • Origin: Old Norse word “lopt” meaning air or sky.
  • Usage: “She’s renting a loft in SoHo.”

Luncheonette

  • Meaning: A small restaurant or diner where lunch can be purchased.
  • Origin: American term, a blend of ‘luncheon’ and the suffix ‘-ette’ implying a small or quaint venue.
  • Usage: “Let’s grab a quick bite at the luncheonette.”

Loaded

  • Meaning: Having a lot of money.
  • Origin: Implies a ‘loaded’ or ‘full’ wallet.
  • Usage: “He just got a new job, and he’s loaded now.”

Lefty

  • Meaning: Referring to someone who is left-handed or politically liberal.
  • Origin: From “left” indicating the hand preference or political inclination.
  • Usage: “He’s a lefty, so he always sits on that side of the table.”

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M

MTA

  • Meaning: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the public transit in New York.
  • Origin: Named after the government organization.
  • Usage: “The MTA is raising subway fares again.”

Mad

  • Meaning: Very or a lot; used for emphasis.
  • Origin: Likely evolved from “madly” meaning extremely or passionately.
  • Usage: “It’s mad cold outside.”

Manspreading

  • Meaning: The act of a man spreading his legs, especially in public transportation, taking up more than one seat.
  • Origin: Blend of “man” and “spreading”. Became widely discussed in NYC regarding subway etiquette.
  • Usage: “There’s no place to sit because that guy’s manspreading.”

Meatpacking

  • Meaning: Referring to the Meatpacking District, known for its nightlife, in Manhattan.
  • Origin: Historically, this area was home to meat distribution companies.
  • Usage: “There’s a new club in Meatpacking we should check out.”

Mobbed

  • Meaning: Extremely crowded or busy.
  • Origin: Derived from “mob” indicating a large crowd of people.
  • Usage: “The restaurant was mobbed by the time we got there.”

MoMA

  • Meaning: Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
  • Origin: Abbreviation of Museum of Modern Art.
  • Usage: “They’ve got a new exhibit at MoMA.”

Mug

  • Meaning: Face or expression.
  • Origin: Possibly derived from mugs used in mug shots.
  • Usage: “Why the long mug? Cheer up!”

Mugging

  • Meaning: Robbing someone in a public place.
  • Origin: Possibly linked to the aggressive facial expressions (mugs) of robbers.
  • Usage: “Be careful in that neighborhood; there have been several muggings.”

Munchies

  • Meaning: A craving for food, usually snacks, often after smoking marijuana.
  • Origin: Informal term for “little bits to eat”.
  • Usage: “After the party, we all had the munchies.”

My bad

  • Meaning: An informal way to admit a mistake or apologize.
  • Origin: African American Vernacular English, gained popularity in the ’80s and ’90s.
  • Usage: “Oh, you were sitting here? My bad.”

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N

No cap

  • Meaning: No lie; to be honest.
  • Origin: From the phrase “capping” or “cappin'”, which means to lie or exaggerate.
  • Usage: “That was the best pizza I’ve ever had, no cap.”

Nada

  • Meaning: Nothing.
  • Origin: Borrowed from Spanish where it means ‘nothing’.
  • Usage: “I’ve got nada in my wallet right now.”

No diggity

  • Meaning: Absolutely, for sure.
  • Origin: Popularized by the song “No Diggity” by Blackstreet in the 1990s.
  • Usage: “That concert was awesome, no diggity.”

No sleep till Brooklyn

  • Meaning: Keep going, don’t stop.
  • Origin: From the Beastie Boys’ song “No Sleep till Brooklyn” which became an anthem.
  • Usage: “We’ve got a long night ahead of us, no sleep till Brooklyn!”

Nicks

  • Meaning: Refers to the New York Knicks, a professional basketball team.
  • Origin: Shortened form of “Knickerbockers”, the official name of the team.
  • Usage: “Are you going to the Nicks game tonight?”

Nomad

  • Meaning: Refers to the neighborhood North of Madison Square Park in Manhattan.
  • Origin: A portmanteau of “North of Madison”.
  • Usage: “I just moved to a new place in Nomad.”

Nonna

  • Meaning: Grandmother.
  • Origin: Borrowed from Italian, where it means ‘grandmother’.
  • Usage: “I’m having dinner at my nonna’s tonight.”

Now you’re talking

  • Meaning: An expression of approval or agreement.
  • Origin: An old idiom expressing understanding or agreement.
  • Usage: “A slice of cheesecake after dinner? Now you’re talking!”

No worries

  • Meaning: That’s alright, don’t worry about it.
  • Origin: A laid-back way of saying “it’s okay”, used widely beyond NYC.
  • Usage: “You’re late? No worries, we just got here too.”

NYPD

  • Meaning: New York Police Department.
  • Origin: Abbreviation for New York Police Department.
  • Usage: “The NYPD has a station right down the block.”

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O

On the real

  • Meaning: Honestly; truly.
  • Origin: Urban slang emphasizing authenticity.
  • Usage: “On the real, that’s the best bagel spot in the city.”

On the arm

  • Meaning: Free of charge.
  • Origin: Likely comes from the notion of “an open hand”, indicating giving.
  • Usage: “He’s a regular here, so he gets his coffee on the arm.”

On the level

  • Meaning: Being honest or truthful.
  • Origin: Originates from the tool used to check if surfaces are straight; indicates straight-talking or honesty.
  • Usage: “Can you be on the level with me about what happened last night?”

One-shot

  • Meaning: Referring to a cup of espresso.
  • Origin: Coffee culture term; one shot of espresso.
  • Usage: “I’ll have a one-shot with a dash of milk.”

Outta pocket

  • Meaning: Acting out of place, inappropriate, or crazy.
  • Origin: Comes from the idea of being outside of one’s usual “place” or “pocket”.
  • Usage: “He was acting way outta pocket at the party.”

OTB

  • Meaning: Off-Track Betting, where one can legally bet on horse races.
  • Origin: Acronym for Off-Track Betting.
  • Usage: “There’s an OTB just two blocks from here.”

Out of town

  • Meaning: Referring to Broadway theaters located outside the main Broadway theater district.
  • Origin: From New York’s theater district terminology.
  • Usage: “That new play is showing at an out of town venue before hitting Broadway.”

Over the bridge

  • Meaning: Referring to places outside of Manhattan, especially in Brooklyn or Queens.
  • Origin: Literal reference to the bridges connecting Manhattan to other boroughs.
  • Usage: “I moved over the bridge to find cheaper rent.”

Over yonder

  • Meaning: Over there or at a distance.
  • Origin: Older idiom that’s widely used, not just in NYC, to indicate a place not too far but not close either.
  • Usage: “The diner? It’s over yonder, past the red building.”

Owning the room

  • Meaning: Commanding attention and respect in a gathering or meeting.
  • Origin: Refers to a dominant, confident presence.
  • Usage: “When she presented her idea, she was totally owning the room.”

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P

Packed to the gills

  • Meaning: Extremely crowded.
  • Origin: Derives from the imagery of fish being packed tightly, gill to gill.
  • Usage: “The subway during rush hour is always packed to the gills.”

Paper

  • Meaning: Money.
  • Origin: Reference to paper currency.
  • Usage: “I gotta make some paper before the end of the week.”

Park it

  • Meaning: To sit down.
  • Origin: A colloquial expression likening someone to a car that needs to be parked.
  • Usage: “You look tired. Why don’t you park it over here?”

Piece of cake

  • Meaning: Something that’s easy or simple.
  • Origin: The exact origin is unclear, but it’s used to express the ease of doing something (like eating a piece of cake).
  • Usage: “Don’t worry, the exam is a piece of cake.”

Playing the dozens

  • Meaning: Trading insults, often about each other’s mothers.
  • Origin: An old African American game of verbal combat.
  • Usage: “They started playing the dozens, and everyone was laughing.”

Pop a cap

  • Meaning: To shoot someone.
  • Origin: Refers to the act of firing a bullet (a “cap”) from a gun.
  • Usage: “He threatened to pop a cap if they didn’t leave his turf.”

Pulling your leg

  • Meaning: Joking or teasing someone.
  • Origin: The exact origin is unclear, but it suggests the act of tripping or playfully preventing someone from moving forward.
  • Usage: “I’m just pulling your leg! Of course, I remember your birthday.”

Push in luck

  • Meaning: Taking chances when one has been lucky already.
  • Origin: Refers to the idea of pushing or testing how far one’s good fortune will go.
  • Usage: “Winning once was great, but don’t push your luck by betting everything again.”

Put up your dukes

  • Meaning: Prepare to fight.
  • Origin: “Dukes” is old New York slang for fists. Likely from Cockney rhyming slang “Duke of Yorks” for forks (fingers).
  • Usage: “If you keep talking trash, you better put up your dukes.”

Playing possum

  • Meaning: Pretending to be asleep or dead.
  • Origin: Based on the behavior of possums, which will often play dead as a defense mechanism.
  • Usage: “He’s not really asleep; he’s just playing possum.”

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Q

Q-train

  • Meaning: One of the subway lines in New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) system.
  • Origin: Part of New York’s extensive subway system, named sequentially.
  • Usage: “I’m hopping on the Q-train to get to Brooklyn.”

Queens

  • Meaning: One of the five boroughs of New York City.
  • Origin: Named in honor of Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England and Portugal in the late 17th century.
  • Usage: “She’s from Queens; grew up there her whole life.”

QNS

  • Meaning: Abbreviation for Queens, NY.
  • Origin: A common abbreviation, especially seen on social media or in addresses.
  • Usage: “Meet me in QNS later; we’ll grab some food.”

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R

R-train

  • Meaning: Another subway line in New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) system.
  • Origin: Part of New York’s extensive subway system, named sequentially.
  • Usage: “I take the R-train every day to get to work.”

Radio City

  • Meaning: Short for Radio City Music Hall, a popular entertainment venue located in Manhattan.
  • Origin: Opened in 1932, it’s famous for the Radio City Rockettes, a dance company known for their annual Christmas show.
  • Usage: “We got tickets for a show at Radio City tonight!”

Rats

  • Meaning: Often refers to the large population of rats found in New York, especially in the subway system.
  • Origin: Urban environments often have rat populations, but NYC’s are notoriously bold.
  • Usage: “I saw a huge rat at the subway station this morning.”

Rucker Park

  • Meaning: A basketball court in Harlem famous for its streetball style of play and tournaments.
  • Origin: Named after teacher and playground director Holcombe Rucker.
  • Usage: “Many NBA players started at Rucker Park before they got famous.”

Rent Party

  • Meaning: A party where tenants hire a musician or band to play and pass the hat to raise money to pay their rent.
  • Origin: Originated during the Harlem Renaissance, when residents (often musicians themselves) would throw parties to collect rent money.
  • Usage: “They’re throwing a rent party upstairs. Sounds fun, let’s join!”

Rock

  • Meaning: Nickname for Rockefeller Center, especially around Christmas when the tree is up.
  • Origin: Named after John D. Rockefeller Jr., who leased the space.
  • Usage: “Meet me at the Rock; I want to see the Christmas tree!”

Rooftop Bar

  • Meaning: A bar situated on the rooftop of a building, providing scenic views of the city. A popular spot in NYC.
  • Origin: NYC’s vertical growth led to the popularity of bars offering aerial views.
  • Usage: “Let’s hit that new rooftop bar in Midtown tonight.”

Runners

  • Meaning: Sneakers or athletic shoes.
  • Origin: General American slang, but widely used in NYC, especially in urban and hip-hop cultures.
  • Usage: “Check out my new runners; got them from that store in SoHo.”

Rush Hour

  • Meaning: The times at the beginning and the end of the working day when, due to people commuting, traffic congestion is at its highest.
  • Origin: This term is not exclusive to New York but is especially relevant given the city’s notorious traffic.
  • Usage: “Avoid taking the subway during rush hour unless you want to get squished.”

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S

Staten

  • Meaning: Short for Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs.
  • Origin: Named after the Dutch parliament, the “Staten Generaal.”
  • Usage: “I’m headed to Staten to visit my grandma this weekend.”

Slice

  • Meaning: A single piece of pizza.
  • Origin: Pizza is iconic in NYC, and ordering by the slice is common.
  • Usage: “Just grab a slice on the way, it’s faster.”

Stoop

  • Meaning: The front steps of a building, typically of brownstones in Brooklyn and Harlem.
  • Origin: From the Dutch word “stoep” which means step or staircase.
  • Usage: “Kids are playing on the stoop again.”

Schmear

  • Meaning: A generous spread of cream cheese on a bagel.
  • Origin: From the Yiddish word “schmirn” which means to spread or smear.
  • Usage: “I’ll have a bagel with a schmear.”

SoHo

  • Meaning: An abbreviation for “South of Houston Street,” a trendy neighborhood in Manhattan known for its artists’ lofts and art galleries.
  • Origin: The name is a play on location and is similar to the naming convention of other NYC neighborhoods (e.g., TriBeCa).
  • Usage: “She’s got a studio in SoHo.”

Subway Series

  • Meaning: A series of Major League Baseball (MLB) games played between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.
  • Origin: Both teams are from NYC, and fans can travel to the games on the subway.
  • Usage: “Who are you rooting for in the Subway Series?”

Square

  • Meaning: Refers to Times Square, a major commercial and tourist hub in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Origin: Originally named after the New York Times newspaper which had its headquarters there.
  • Usage: “The ball drop in the Square on New Year’s Eve is iconic.”

Showtime

  • Meaning: A type of dance performance seen on NYC subways, usually involving pole tricks and acrobatics.
  • Origin: Dancers often announce their performance with the word “Showtime!”
  • Usage: “I had to switch cars; some kids started a Showtime.”

Swiped

  • Meaning: Refers to swiping a MetroCard to pay fare and enter the subway system.
  • Origin: The swiping action used when entering the subway.
  • Usage: “I swiped my card, but the turnstile didn’t budge.”

Skyscraper

  • Meaning: An extremely tall building, a staple in the NYC skyline.
  • Origin: New York, being a densely populated city with limited space, grew vertically leading to the construction of many skyscrapers.
  • Usage: “The view from that skyscraper is breathtaking.”

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T

The City

  • Meaning: Refers to Manhattan, even though NYC has five boroughs.
  • Origin: Historically, Manhattan was the main hub and is still often considered the center of NYC.
  • Usage: “I’m heading into The City for a meeting.”

Timbs

  • Meaning: Short for Timberland boots, which are very popular in NYC.
  • Origin: Timberland, the American manufacturer, became popular in NYC’s urban and hip-hop scenes.
  • Usage: “It’s snowing outside, better put on my Timbs.”

TriBeCa

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in Manhattan. It stands for “Triangle Below Canal Street.”
  • Origin: A portmanteau of “Triangle Below Canal,” reflecting its location.
  • Usage: “Robert De Niro has a place in TriBeCa.”

Tap

  • Meaning: Refers to using a contactless payment card or mobile device to pay for subway or bus fare.
  • Origin: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority introduced the tap-and-go system as a replacement for swiping a MetroCard.
  • Usage: “I forgot my MetroCard, but I can tap with my phone.”

Throggs Neck

  • Meaning: A narrow spit of land in the southeastern portion of the Bronx.
  • Origin: Named after John Throckmorton, who had lived in the area during the 1600s.
  • Usage: “My aunt has a house in Throggs Neck.”

Tight

  • Meaning: Upset or annoyed.
  • Origin: Likely comes from the feeling of tension.
  • Usage: “He was real tight when he missed the train.”

Taking the L

  • Meaning: Refers to suffering a loss or setback; can also refer to literally taking the L train.
  • Origin: “L” stands for loss, but in NYC, there’s also the L train line.
  • Usage: “He had to admit he was wrong; he’s taking the L on this one.”

The Big Apple

  • Meaning: A nickname for New York City.
  • Origin: Popularized in the 1920s by a local newspaper sports writer.
  • Usage: “The Big Apple always has something new to offer.”

Two Bridges

  • Meaning: A neighborhood in the southeastern part of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Named for its location between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.
  • Usage: “Two Bridges has some of the best Chinese food in the city.”

Turnstile

  • Meaning: The metal gates you walk through after swiping your MetroCard to enter the subway.
  • Origin: Named for their rotating arms that turn as people pass through.
  • Usage: “My MetroCard got declined at the turnstile.”

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U

UES

  • Meaning: An abbreviation for the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Derived from the geographical location, it’s located to the northeast of Central Park.
  • Usage: “I have a friend who lives in a swanky apartment on the UES.”

Uptown

  • Meaning: Refers to the northern parts of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Relative to the orientation of Manhattan’s grid, moving northward is going “uptown.”
  • Usage: “I need to take the 1 train uptown to get to my place.”

Upstate

  • Meaning: Refers to the parts of New York State that are north of NYC.
  • Origin: Contrasts with Downstate New York, which includes the city and its nearby suburbs.
  • Usage: “I’m going upstate for a weekend retreat.”

Union Square

  • Meaning: A historic intersection and surrounding neighborhood in Manhattan.
  • Origin: Originally formed as a union of two major roads, hence the name.
  • Usage: “Let’s meet up at Union Square; there’s a farmer’s market today.”

UWS

  • Meaning: An abbreviation for the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Derived from its geographical location, it’s to the northwest of Central Park.
  • Usage: “The UWS has some great parks and cafes.”

Under the weather

  • Meaning: Feeling ill or not oneself.
  • Origin: This idiom’s exact origin is unknown, but it’s used nationally, not just in New York.
  • Usage: “I can’t come into work today; I’m feeling under the weather.”

Underground

  • Meaning: Refers to the subway system in NYC.
  • Origin: Because the majority of the NYC subway system is below ground.
  • Usage: “I’ll take the underground to get there; it’s faster.”

Uptight

  • Meaning: Being stressed or anxious about something.
  • Origin: It’s a term that has been used broadly in the U.S., not just specific to NYC.
  • Usage: “Why are you so uptight about the meeting? It’ll be fine.”

Up your alley

  • Meaning: Something that’s suited to one’s interests or abilities.
  • Origin: The term ‘alley’ used to refer to activities or interests one is familiar with.
  • Usage: “You love jazz? There’s a club up in Harlem that’s right up your alley.”

Use your loaf

  • Meaning: Think about it; use your head/brain.
  • Origin: Cockney rhyming slang “loaf of bread” for “head.”
  • Usage: “Come on, use your loaf! You know that’s not the right way to do it.”

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V

Village

  • Meaning: Refers to Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in Manhattan known for its bohemian and artistic atmosphere.
  • Origin: Historically, Greenwich Village was a separate village from New York City, hence the name.
  • Usage: “There’s an incredible jazz club in the Village you should check out.”

Vibe out

  • Meaning: To relax, chill, or enjoy oneself.
  • Origin: Derived from “vibe,” which means a feeling or atmosphere. The phrase suggests aligning oneself with a particular mood or feeling.
  • Usage: “After work, I just want to vibe out and listen to some music.”

Vino

  • Meaning: Wine.
  • Origin: From the Italian word for wine.
  • Usage: “Let’s grab a bottle of vino for the dinner party.”

VIP

  • Meaning: Very Important Person.
  • Origin: A term used globally to denote someone of high importance or special access.
  • Usage: “They have a VIP section in that club where all the celebrities hang out.”

V train

  • Meaning: A former New York City Subway service.
  • Origin: Part of the NYC subway labeling system.
  • Usage: “I used to take the V train to work, but they changed the lines.”

Van Wyck

  • Meaning: Refers to the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens.
  • Origin: Named after former New York City Mayor Robert C. Van Wyck.
  • Usage: “Traffic on the Van Wyck was a nightmare this morning.”

Vendy

  • Meaning: A slang term for the annual Vendy Awards, which honor the best of New York City’s food vendors.
  • Origin: A play on the word “vendor.”
  • Usage: “Did you hear? That taco truck won a Vendy this year!”

Verklempt

  • Meaning: Overcome with emotion.
  • Origin: Borrowed from Yiddish, reflecting NYC’s diverse linguistic heritage.
  • Usage: “I was so verklempt when she announced her engagement.”

Verrazano

  • Meaning: Refers to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn.
  • Origin: Named after Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first known European explorer to enter New York Harbor.
  • Usage: “The toll for the Verrazano keeps going up.”

Vice

  • Meaning: Refers to a bad habit or a moral failing.
  • Origin: From Old French “vice.”
  • Usage: “His only vice is that he smokes a cigar now and then.”

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W

Wall Street

  • Meaning: Financial district of NYC and symbolic for the financial markets of the United States.
  • Origin: Named after a 17th-century wall built by the Dutch in New Amsterdam.
  • Usage: “He got a job in Wall Street straight out of college.”

The Wax

  • Meaning: The old subway tokens used in NYC before the introduction of the MetroCard.
  • Origin: The token had a similar look and feel to a small wax disc.
  • Usage: “I remember when we used to pay for the subway with the wax.”

West Side

  • Meaning: Refers to the western part of Manhattan.
  • Origin: Geographical term based on Manhattan’s layout.
  • Usage: “She lives on the West Side, near the park.”

What’s good?

  • Meaning: A greeting, synonymous with “What’s up?” or “How are you?”
  • Origin: Evolved from African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
  • Usage: “Hey, long time no see! What’s good?”

White Plains

  • Meaning: A city in Westchester County, north of New York City.
  • Origin: Named after the grassy open plains by the English settlers.
  • Usage: “I’m heading up to White Plains for a meeting.”

Willy B

  • Meaning: Short for the Williamsburg Bridge.
  • Origin: Named after the neighborhood it connects to Manhattan, Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
  • Usage: “I usually take the Willy B to get into Manhattan.”

Word

  • Meaning: An affirmation, agreement, or to indicate understanding. Similar to saying “Exactly” or “True.”
  • Origin: African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the late 20th century.
  • Usage: “That movie was awesome.” “Word, I loved it.”

World’s Fair

  • Meaning: Refers to the two world’s fairs held in Queens in 1939 and 1964.
  • Origin: Named after the large international exhibitions.
  • Usage: “They say you can still visit some remnants from the World’s Fair in the park.”

Wu-Tang

  • Meaning: A hip-hop group from Staten Island, known worldwide.
  • Origin: Named after the Wu-Tang sword style from Chinese martial arts films.
  • Usage: “Wu-Tang’s influence on hip hop is undeniable.”

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X

X-ing

  • Meaning: Abbreviation for “crossing”, often seen on street signs.
  • Origin: A simplified way to denote areas where pedestrians or other vehicles might cross.
  • Usage: “Watch out for that pedestrian X-ing up ahead.”

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Y

Yankee

  • Meaning: A nickname for an American, but more locally in New York, it refers to a member or fan of the New York Yankees, the city’s Major League Baseball team.
  • Origin: The term “Yankee” has been in use since the 18th century and was used during the American Civil War to refer to people from the North. The New York Yankees, founded in 1901, took on the name.
  • Usage: “He’s a die-hard Yankee fan; never misses a game.”

YOLO

  • Meaning: An acronym for “You Only Live Once.”
  • Origin: The phrase became popular in the 2010s, especially after being featured in a song by rapper Drake.
  • Usage: “I decided to take the jump, because, you know, YOLO!”

Yonkers

  • Meaning: A city located directly north of the Bronx, often considered a part of the larger New York City area.
  • Origin: Derived from the Dutch “Jonkheer,” meaning “young gentleman” or “young nobleman”.
  • Usage: “She moved out to Yonkers for a bigger place, but she still works in Manhattan.”

Yuppie

  • Meaning: An acronym for “Young Urban Professional.” Refers to a young person with a well-paying job and urban lifestyle.
  • Origin: The term became popular in the 1980s to describe a certain class of city dwellers.
  • Usage: “The neighborhood used to be all artists, but now it’s filled with yuppies.”

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Z

Zabar’s

  • Meaning: A famous gourmet food store located on the Upper West Side.
  • Origin: Opened in 1934 by Louis and Lillian Zabar.
  • Usage: “I’m going to Zabar’s to get some of that amazing smoked salmon.”

Zero (Ground Zero)

  • Meaning: Refers to the site where the World Trade Center towers stood before the 9/11 attacks.
  • Origin: After the 9/11 attacks, the site was often referred to as “Ground Zero.”
  • Usage: “They built the new Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.”

Zoo York

  • Meaning: A popular brand of skateboards and apparel.
  • Origin: The name is a play on “New York” and was inspired by a subway tunnel running beneath the Central Park Zoo.
  • Usage: “Check out my new Zoo York hoodie.”

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That’s it for our list of New York slang, sayings and phrases! Thanks for continuing to expand your vocabulary with us.  Did we miss something? Let us know down below in the comments ⤵.

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