New York City Slang: Over 120 Slang Words to Speak Like a Native New Yorker
Every time I leave my home of Brooklyn, NY, using the Belt Parkway, I catch a glimpse of a sign that says: “Leaving Brooklyn—Fuhgeddaboudit.”
This phrase is a great example of New York slang.
You might already know a few others thanks to movies and pop culture, like the classic “how you doin'” and “yerr,” which has become more popular recently.
Whether you’re planning a trip to The Big Apple, or you just want to understand New Yorkers in the media, read on to learn some of the most common New York slang words and expressions.
- What Is New York Slang?
- Common New York City Slang Words and Phrases
- New York Slang in Different Boroughs
- NYC Fashion and Style Slang
- New York City Food Slang
- Slang from NYC’s Financial District
- New York City Sports Slang
- New York Slang in Popular Culture
- And One More Thing...
What Is New York Slang?
There’s a good chance that you can recognize New York slang when you hear it. But what actually defines this local spin on the English language and how did it get to where it is today?
Here are some of the defining elements of “New Yorkese”:
- New Yorkers have a distinct accent, characterized by dropping the -r sound at the end of words (this is called a “non-rhotic accent”), the pronunciation of -th as -d and the pronunciation of “o” and “a” sounds like “aw” (in words like “coffee” and “talk”). There are several other unique features to New York pronunciation, so keep an ear out for them!
- New York speech is energetic and fast-paced, giving it a uniquely NYC sound and rhythm.
- New Yorkers tend to say it how it is, often leading to blunt, straightforward speech and slang. Basically, if we think something, we’ll be sure to tell you about it!
- Diverse communities and ethnicities and a rich history of immigration have brought with them their cultures and language, adding their own flavor on New York English and slang.
- The rise of hip-hop music in the 1970s and 80s, with its roots in the Bronx, brought a new wave of slang words and phrases to the mainstream.
The best way to understand the New York accent and slang is to hear it. Seek out movies and shows featuring New Yorkers, like “Broad City” and “30 Rock.” You can see more examplesin the videos on the FluentU language learning program, which feature native English speakers from all over the world.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Common New York City Slang Words and Phrases
Until I was writing this post, I didn’t realize that so many of the words and expressions I hear on a daily basis as a New Yorker are actually specific to the city. Here are some common slang terms you might hear when you’re talking down a NYC street:
The City — Used by New Yorkers to refer to Manhattan.
Buggin’ — Describes someone who’s acting crazy or losing their composure. You might also hear this as “Buggindaf*ckout.”
Yerr — An exclamation used to greet someone or express agreement, similar to “yo” or “hey.”
Deadass — Emphasizes the truth or seriousness of a statement, similar to “seriously” or “for real.”
Aight — A colloquial pronunciation of “alright,” commonly used to indicate agreement or understanding.
Mad — Used as an intensifier to mean “a lot” or “very,” as in “mad cool” or “mad expensive.”
Son — A term of endearment or addressing someone, similar to “dude” or “man.”
Cuz — Short for “cousin,” but often used as a general term of familiarity or addressing someone.
Cabbie — Another word for a taxi driver.
Brick — Used to describe extremely cold weather. For example: “It’s mad brick outside.”
Tight — Used to express frustration, annoyance or disappointment. For example, “That’s tight, I can’t go.”
Gassed — Excited or hyped up about something.
The Subway — The underground train system in New York City, used for public transportation throughout the five boroughs. Note that even in places where the train goes above ground, New Yorkers call the train system the “subway.”
Schlep — To carry or haul something, often used to describe the act of traveling a long distance with a heavy load.
Chillin’ —Relaxing or hanging out, often used to describe a casual and laid-back activity.
Snack — Referring to someone who’s attractive, often in terms of physical appearance.
Bet — Short for “you bet.”
Frontin’ — Refers to someone who is pretending to to be better than they are.
Johnny Pump — A fire hydrant, named after John Giraud, the creator of the style of hydrant introduced to NYC in 1830. I’ve personally never heard this one, and it seems to be used by the older generation and firefighters.
Straphanger — Someone who takes the NYC subway. This name is in reference of the old style of trains, which had leather straps hanging from the poles for riders to hold on to. This slang term is so mainstream that I’ve even heard it used on the news.
New York Slang in Different Boroughs
From the Bronx Zoo to the rich culture, the Bronx has plenty of offer for visitors and residents. These are some common words and phrases you might hear in the Bronx borough of NYC.
Da Bronx — Refers to the Bronx borough, often used by people to convey their association with that particular area. “I’m from da Bronx!”
Boogie Down Bronx — Another name for the Bronx, derived from the borough’s rich music and dance culture.
BX — Short for the Bronx, often used in written or spoken form as an abbreviation.
Chopped Cheese — A popular sandwich made with chopped ground beef, cheese and various toppings, commonly found in Bronx delis.
The Concourse — Referring to Grand Concourse, a major boulevard running through the Bronx, known for its art deco architecture.
Brooklynites have a particular way of speaking that you might recognize from popular media like movies and TV shows. Being from Brooklyn myself, these are all commonslang words I hear all the time. Check out some Brooklyn-specific slang!
Brooklynite — Refers to someone who is from or resides in the borough of Brooklyn.
The Boardwalk — Refers to the Brighton Beach Boardwalk on Coney Island, where you can access a beach, restaurant and the Luna Park Amusement Park.
The Beast — Referring to the Cyclone, a historic wooden roller coaster located in Coney Island.
Bed-Stuy — Short for Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn known for its rich history and cultural significance.
The 718 — Referring to the phone number area code for Brooklyn and parts of Queens.
The borough of Queens has its own set of useful slang and expressions you might hear, with many referring to places and landmarks that are unique to Queens. My husband’s from Queens, so these are also commonplace words in our household!
QNS — Short for Queens, often used in written or spoken form as an abbreviation.
The Rock — Referring to Rockaway Beach, a popular beach and neighborhood located in the Rockaways area of Queens.
The Globitron — Refers to the Unisphere, the iconic spherical sculpture located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, symbolizing Queens’ role as the host borough of the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve also heard the sphere referred to as “The Globe.”
The Iron Triangle — Referring to Willets Point, a neighborhood in Queens known for its auto repair shops and industrial character. This one was new to me, so I did a bit more digging, and it seems that Willets Point isn’t exactly a hot spot to visit.
The Sutphin Strip — Referring to the commercial corridor along Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, known for its bustling activity and diverse businesses.
The most famous borough of the city, Manhattan has plenty of slang! Unlike the slang from other boroughs, which is mostly used by residents of those boroughs, these Manhattan-isms are used all around New York City. I use most of these myself, and I definitely can’t afford to actually live in Manhattan!
The Village — Short for Greenwich Village, a neighborhood known for its bohemian and artistic atmosphere. No one calls it Greenwich Village, it’s always just The Village (capital T, capital V!).
The Bowery — The historic street in Manhattan that runs through the Lower East Side and is associated with music and art scenes.
FIDI — A shortened name for the Financial District in downtown Manhattan.
Museums Mile — The stretch along Fifth Avenue, between 82nd Street and 105th Street, that features several renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My personal favorites there are the Museum of the City of New York and El Museo del Barrio. The whole area is well worth a visit!
The Great White Way — Refers to Broadway, known for its iconic theaters and the theatrical industry in New York City.
The Skyline — The iconic silhouette created by Manhattan’s tall buildings when viewed from a distance. For the best view of the iconic skyline I recommend the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in the DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The Beehive — The unofficial name for the Vessel, a structure in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards district. They really missed an opportunity in naming it, the colloquial name is much more fitting. Just look at it!
Yellow Cab — The iconic yellow taxis that are a common sight on the streets of Manhattan. We now also have green cabs that operate outside of Manhattan, but they’re apparently being phased out as of early 2023. The slang term “Yellow Cab” is such a part of NYC speech at this point that I strongly believe even if they changed the color for some reason, they’ll still be called “Yellow Cabs”!
The Met — Short for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the most renowned museums in New York City.
Staten Island Slang
Often referred to as the “forgotten borough,” Staten Island is somewhat in a world of its own. The slang and neighborhood nicknames here aren’t as well known outside of the borough but they’re essential to know if you plan to visit the little island.
The Rock — A nickname for Staten Island, referring to its rocky terrain and hilly landscapes.
The Landfill — Refers to the Fresh Kills Landfill, a former landfill site on Staten Island.
Shaolin — Derived from the Wu-Tang Clan, a famous hip-hop group from Staten Island that often referred to the borough as “Shaolin” in their music.
The Forgotten Borough — A term used to express the perception that Staten Island is sometimes overlooked or forgotten in comparison to the other boroughs of New York City.
Richmond — Referring to the historic name of Staten Island, as it was previously known as the County of Richmond.
NYC Fashion and Style Slang
New York City is a hotspot for fashion and style trends. It’s always especially fun to head out to Manhattan during fashion week, and spot models wandering the streets with press photographers following them around.
From the world-famous fashion week to some of the most popular brands and stores, it’s no wonder that there are many slang and colloquial terms from the fashion side of NYC.
Timbs — Short for Timberland boots, a popular brand of sturdy, waterproof boots often worn in urban fashion.
Copped — Used to describe purchasing or acquiring a new item of clothing or footwear.
Poloed Up — Refers to wearing multiple items from the Polo Ralph Lauren brand or dressing in a preppy style.
Scuffed —Describes shoes that are worn out, dirty or in poor condition.
Bubblegoose — A slang term for a puffy or down-filled winter jacket, typically worn in colder months.
Guap — Slang for a significant amount of money, often used in the context of purchasing expensive clothing or accessories.
Rockin’ — Wearing or sporting a particular clothing item or style with confidence.
Dope — Used to describe something that is stylish, cool, or impressive, often referring to clothing or accessories.
Steppin’ — Wearing fashionable or eye-catching clothing, often with an air of confidence and swagger.
Kicks — Slang term for sneakers or athletic shoes.
Dripped Out — Refers to someone who is dressed exceptionally well, with attention to detail and stylish coordination.
Flexin’ — Showing off one’s fashionable clothing or accessories, often with an air of confidence and pride.
Fresh — Used to describe someone or something that looks stylish, trendy, or fashionable.
Steez — A combination of style and ease, used to describe someone’s unique and effortless fashion sense.
Swag — Refers to a person’s confident and stylish demeanor or the overall style and attitude of their outfit.
Stuntin’ — To show off or exhibit one’s style, often in an extravagant or attention-grabbing way.
Swagga — Refers to the confident and stylish demeanor or overall presence of an individual.
High Fashion — Refers to luxury and designer fashion brands, often associated with high-end runway shows and couture.
Grailed — Refers to a highly sought-after or rare piece of clothing or accessory, often associated with limited editions or hard-to-find items.
Street Style — Fashion influenced by the urban environment and characterized by a mix of casual, edgy and eclectic elements.
New York City Food Slang
If you’ve never ordered a baconeggncheese or a dollar pizza, are you even a New Yorker? The terms below are quintessentially and deliciously NYC.
Slice — Refers to a slice of pizza, a quintessential NYC food item.
Bagel and schmear — A bagel with cream cheese spread.
Baconeggncheese — A popular breakfast sandwich in NYC, typically consisting of bacon, fried eggs and cheese on a roll or bagel. New Yorkers typically slam all four words together into one word!
Street meat — Refers to the various types of food, such as kebabs or hot dogs, sold from food carts and trucks on city streets.
Dirty water dog — A hot dog boiled in water, commonly sold by street vendors.
Bodega — A small convenience store or corner store where one can find a variety of snacks, drinks and other food items. This word is part of everyone’s vocabulary in NYC, so much so that I didn’t realize it was a uniquely NYC term.
Hero — A New York-style sandwich, typically made with Italian bread and filled with cold cuts, cheese and condiments. Drown it in mayo for the deadliest but most delicious experience!
Nosh — To eat a small snack or light meal, often associated with enjoying a quick bite from a food vendor or food cart.
Egg cream — A classic NYC drink made with milk, seltzer and chocolate syrup. Despite the name, it doesn’t contain any eggs.
Coney dog — A hot dog topped with chili, onions and mustard, popularized by the well-known Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs in Coney Island.
Boozy Brunch — A brunch (a light meal between breakfast and lunch) gathering or meal where alcoholic beverages, such as cocktails, mimosas or Bloody Marys.
Grub — A slang term for food in general, often used casually to refer to a meal or snack.
Dive — Refers to a low-key, unpretentious restaurant or bar that may have a casual atmosphere but offers delicious and affordable food.
Cuppa Joe — Slang for a cup of coffee, often used casually or in diners and coffee shops. Somehow, the little food carts always have the best cuppa.
Slang from NYC’s Financial District
The city is home to Wall Street, one of the most influential places for finance and the stock exchange in the United States. If you find yourself in the Financial District in downtown Manhattan, or you want to get a job that somehow relates to the industry, you’ll want to know these words and phrases.
Wall Street — Refers to the street in Lower Manhattan where the financial district is housed, as well as the financial district as a whole.
Bankster — A portmanteau (combination) of “banker” and “gangster,” used to refer to individuals in the financial industry, sometimes in a negative way.
Bull — Refers to someone who’s optimistic about the direction of the stock market or expects prices to rise. It’s derived from the term “bull market.” If you’re in the neighborhood, a photo with the charging bull statue of Wall Street is a must!
Bear — Refers to a person who’s pessimistic about the direction of the stock market or expects prices to fall. It’s derived from the term “bear market.”
Big Board — Refers to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the world’s largest stock exchange located on Wall Street.
Ticker — The scrolling display of stock quotes and financial information found on electronic boards, particularly the ticker tape on the New York Stock Exchange.
Floor trader — A trader who conducts transactions on the trading floor of an exchange, often using hand signals and verbal communication.
Pit — An area on the trading floor where open outcry trading occurs, with traders making bids and offers using hand signals.
Greenback — A slang term for the U.S. dollar, derived from the color of American banknotes.
Boiler room — A high-pressure sales environment, often associated with fraudulent or unethical practices in the financial industry.
New York City Sports Slang
From the Yankees to the Mets and beyond, New York City is home to several sports teams and venues. Find out how to talk sports like a New Yorker with these slang words!
The Bronx Bombers — Nickname for the New York Yankees, referring to their powerful hitting ability.
Broadway Blueshirts — Nickname for the New York Rangers, the city’s professional ice hockey team.
Bronx Zoo — Refers to the tumultuous era of the New York Yankees in the late 1970s, known for its colorful and sometimes controversial personalities.
Gotham Gridiron — Refers to the football field, specifically in the context of the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
Subway Standoff — Refers to a match-up between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.
Big Blue — Nickname for the New York Giants, referring to their team colors.
The Garden — Refers to Madison Square Garden, a famous arena in New York City that hosts various sporting events, particularly basketball and ice hockey.
Empire state of mind — Refers to the pride and mindset associated with representing New York in sports, and the nickname for NYC, “The Empire State.”
Pinstripes — Refers to the distinctive uniform of the New York Yankees, featuring thin vertical stripes.
Subway Heroes — Refers to standout players on the New York Mets or New York Yankees who consistently perform well.
Nets Nation — Refers to the fanbase of the Brooklyn Nets, the city’s professional basketball team.
The House That Ruth Built — Nickname for the original Yankee Stadium, honoring the legendary player Babe Ruth.
Orange and Blue — Refers to the team colors shared by the New York Mets and the New York Knicks.
New York Slang in Popular Culture
Whenever NYC is featured in movies and TV shows, you might overhear some very New Yorker thing to say. You honestly don’t hear these too often on the streets of NYC, but they’re so fun to know.
Here are some of the most famous examples of NYC slang used in popular culture.
Fuhgeddaboudit — A phrase popularized by New York films like “Donnie Brasco” and “Goodfellas,” meaning “forget about it” or “let it go.”
Bada bing, bada boom — Popularized by the TV series “The Sopranos,” it’s an expression used to emphasize the simplicity or quickness of a process.
I’m walkin’ here! — A line famously ad-libbed by Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “Midnight Cowboy,” representing the assertiveness and toughness associated with New Yorkers.
You talkin’ to me? — An iconic line from the movie “Taxi Driver” delivered by Robert De Niro’s character, representing a confrontational and skeptical attitude.
Youse/Youse guys — Used in “A Bronx Tale” and “The Sopranos” to address a group of people, equivalent to “you all” or “you guys.”
How you doin’? — Made famous by Joey Tribbiani in the TV show “Friends,” it’s a smooth and flirtatious way of saying “hello” or expressing interest.
Wassup? — A casual greeting, popularized by Budweiser commercials and later used by characters in various TV shows and movies.
Slang Names for NYC
New York City has many names. Check them out below!
The Big Apple — A nickname that represents New York City’s status as the most prominent and influential city in the United States.
The Concrete Jungle — Refers to the dense urban landscape of New York City, characterized by its towering skyscrapers and bustling streets.
Gotham — A nickname derived from the fictional city of Batman comics, representing the dark and mysterious aspects of New York City.
The Empire City — Reflects New York City’s historical and cultural significance as a center of economic power and influence.
The City That Never Sleeps — Emphasizes the 24/7 energy and constant activity of New York City, where there is always something happening at any time of day or night.
The Capital of the World — Highlights New York City’s global influence and its status as a hub for finance, culture, media and various industries.
The Melting Pot — Describes New York City’s diverse population and the blending of different cultures, languages and traditions in one place.
The city so nice they named it twice — Refers to the full name of the city and state, “New York, New York.”
Whether you’re planning to visit New York City or live there, the slang words and expressions in this post will teach you to speak like a true New Yorker!
And One More Thing...
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