45 New York Slang Words that Everyone Should Know

Source: newyork.cbslocal.com

New York City is an interesting place with a lot of slang that its natives and residents use in everyday conversations.

If you do not use these slang words or do not understand them in conversations, it will be easy for people to tell you that you are not a New Yorker.

It can be difficult to understand the words and language of NYC slang words. But, this guide will help you get started with all the important words and example sentences so you can sound like someone native to New York.

Whether you’re moving to New York, visiting for the Big Apple’s bright night life, or you’re just a slang-lover, these are the slang words and lingo that you will want to know for your next New York conversation.

Food Slang In New York City

Pie

A pie is another word for a whole pizza, one of the most famous foods in New York. You can buy an entire pie, or you can buy it by the slice. If you order a pie, you are ordering a pizza.

e.g. I am going to order a pie with pepperoni and peppers.

Plain Slice

A plain slice is a slang for a piece of cheese pizza. No toppings, just a slice with crust, the sauce, and the cheese.

e.g. I had one plain slice and one sausage slice for lunch today.

Schmear

As everyone knows, New York is famous for its bagels. There are many different bagels and toppings that you can order, but many New Yorkers order a schmear. A schmear is a bagel with lots of cream cheese on top.

e.g. I’ll take an everything bagel with a schmear.

Regular coffee

A regular coffee may sound like a plain coffee, but in New York, regular coffee is a coffee with cream and sugar, or milk and sugar.

So when you order a regular coffee in New York City, the shop will know exactly what you mean.

On the other hand, if you try to order a regular coffee outside of NYC, the barista may give you a strange look or just hand you a black coffee.

e.g. Bro, you have to order a regular coffee and a bagel with schmear if you want to sound like a new yorker.

Hero

A hero is the slang word for a long sandwich. In other places, it may be referred to with words like a sub, a hoagie, a po’boy, or a grinder. But you will not find any of these sandwiches in New York, just heroes.

e.g. One hero on wheat with extra turkey, please!

BEC

A BEC is a sandwich with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese which is very popular in NYC.

e.g. I am going to order a BEC to eat in the park.


Slang Words for General Places and Directions

Some of the slang terms that New Yorkers use also have to do with locations or buildings in the city.

You may talk to someone in New York about directions to a specific restaurant. Do not be surprised if their response is “go into the city and head downtown towards SOHO.”

It may not sound like English to the rest of the world, but someone in New York can understand this perfectly.

The City

The city is a misleading phrase because it sounds like it would be referring to New York City as a whole. Still, when a New Yorker says the city, they are referring to the borough of Manhattan only.

e.g. I have an apartment in Queens, but I work at an office in the city.

Uptown

The word uptown has two meanings. First, you can take the train uptown, meaning you are heading north or to a higher numbered street.

The second meaning is a certain part of Manhattan. If someone is referring to Uptown, they are talking about the part of New York north of Central Park.

e.g.
I am taking the train uptown to see a show, and then I am heading downtown for some dinner and drinks.
That man lives in that new apartment building in Uptown.

Downtown

Downtown is similar to the slang term uptown, but it has the opposite meaning. If someone is heading downtown, they are going south.

Additionally, downtown refers to the area of Manhattan south of Central Park. Therefore, if a person lives downtown, it usually means they live south of 59th street or so.

e.g.
I am heading downtown to spend all of my money on bagels and pies.
I need to find a place to stay downtown, so I am closer to my office.

Borough

Boroughs are what people in New York City call neighborhoods.

In New York City, there are five different Boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

If someone asks you what borough you live in, they are asking you where in NYC you live.

e.g.
I just asked that person what borough they are from, and they are from Queens too.
My dad was born in the Bronx, and he never left the borough.

Avenue

Avenues in Manhattan refer to the streets that run north and south through the whole island of Manhattan.

If you wanted to walk east to west across Central Park, you would start on 5th Avenue, walk across the park, and end up on 8th Avenue.

e.g.
I need to look at schools for my kid on Fifth Avenue near Times Square and the High Line.

Streets

The word street may seem like basic English, but in New York, there are streets to accompany the avenues that we described above.

Streets run east to west, and the blocks are much shorter than the blocks between avenues.
Some common phrases you may hear in NYC include directions using streets and avenues.

e.g.
59th Street borders Central Park on the south end.
I will meet you at the hot dog stand on 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st street.

Bodega

A bodega is a small grocery store found on many of the city’s corners and blocks.

Bodegas are similar to convenience stores and are a quick way for New Yorkers to get some groceries or other basic products.

A bodega is different from a grocery store because a grocery store is typically larger.

e.g.
I am going to walk to the bodega and buy some ice cream and toothpaste, do you need anything?

Stoop

A stoop is the set of steps outside of an apartment building in New York. A stoop usually has a few steps, and you can often see people sitting or talking on them.

e.g.
I will send you a text message when I am on your stoop; I have a surprise for you.
Slang Words for Specific Places in NYC

SOHO

SOHO is a neighborhood in New York, and the acronym comes from the location of the neighborhood, which is South of Houston Street.

e.g.
I am going to shop in SOHO this weekend.

Tribeca

Another NYC neighborhood is Tribeca, an English acronym of its location, which is the Triangle Below Canal Street.

Because of the island’s shape, the neighborhood looks like a triangle, and it is just south of Canal Street.

e.g.
From SOHO, you can head downtown and meet us in Tribeca.

30 Rock

In addition to being the name of a TV show, 30 Rock is something you will hear when people in NY talk about the building located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

e.g.
Do you want to head downtown with us to visit 30 Rock?


Conversational Slang Words

Yooz

Source: wagner.edu

Yooz is how people in NYC refer to a group of people. It is another meaning for the southern term Y’all or the western term you guys.

This word is more common in the language of specific generations or boroughs in NY. Still, you will hear the term if you spend enough time invested in the NY culture.

e.g.
Yooz should go pick up the bagels before everyone wakes up.
Hey, it’s Debbie and Joe! We met yooz at the party last week.

Dead-ass

Dead-ass is one of the slang words that have become popular with New York’s younger generations. If a person says they are dead-ass about something, it means they are very serious.

e.g. I told my bro I was dead-ass about getting married in France.

Son

Son is a word that has a different meaning in English than it does in New York. If a person wants to greet or refer to a good friend of theirs, generally a man, they will call them a son.

e.g.¬†That man at the bodega said, “What’s up, son?” when I walked in today. We have become good friends.

Brick

In New York, a person saying something is brick means it is very cold. Brick is usually a way to refer to the weather, but it can describe other things too.

e.g., All of us are over this winter; it is brick.

Grill

Sometimes people use the word grill to mean interrogate, but in New York, the meaning is different. New Yorkers use the word grill for a long stare or dirty look.

e.g. I was grilling that man at the hot dog cart when he cut the line.

Whack

Whack is a slang word meaning something is crazy or unbelievable.

e.g. I saw millions of pigeons on my way to work this morning. It was whack.

Ice

Ice is another name for jewelry.

e.g. I need to go to Tiffany’s and search for some ice for my wife.

Kicks

Kicks is another meaning for shoes, especially nice or cool shoes.

e.g. Hey bro, I got you some new kicks for the party.

Beef

Beef is a slang word meaning a fight, a grudge, or an ill will against someone. If you have beef with someone, you two are not friends and have some sort of friction between you.

e.g. Me and Joe from the office have a lot of beef after he kept interrupting my presentation.

Schvitz

Source: timeout.com

Schvitz is a Yiddish word meaning sweat that is commonly used in New York.

e.g. I was at the gym for two hours this morning and I worked up a major schvitz.

Mad

Mad has a different meaning in New York than in most of the world. In NYC, it is slang for very, or extremely.

e.g. I am mad excited to see the Yankees play tonight.

Dumb

Similar to mad, dumb does not mean stupid in New York, but it also means very or extremely.

e.g. I had a bagel with schmear from the new shop today and it was dumb good.

Cop

To cop something means to buy it or get it.

e.g. I copped one of the new Yankees jerseys at the game yesterday.

Thirsty

Thirsty is a slang word that means someone is really desperate or wishing for something.

e.g. The guy at the bar was hitting on me all night. He was so thirsty.

Wildin’

Wildin’ is lingo meaning someone is going crazy or completely overreacting.

e.g.
I was wildin’ when I saw that my car had been towed again.
She was wildin’ at her bachelorette party last night.

Trippin’

Similar to wildin’, trippin’ means someone is freaking out or overreacting.

e.g. He was trippin’ when he saw that he had to pay even more in rent this month.

Dead

Dead describes someone or something that is really funny or incredible.

e.g. I was dead after Jenny started telling jokes at the party. She is so funny!

Buggin’

Buggin’ means someone is freaking out or overreacting to a situation.

e.g. That girl was buggin’ when she found out that the trains were delayed.


Other Slang Words Used in NY

Gotham

Taken from the movie Batman, many people jokingly call New York City Gotham.

e.g. I am flying back to Gotham today after a month on the West Coast.

Waiting on Line

The slang word “waiting on line” is the New York way of saying someone is waiting in a line.

e.g. I am waiting on line with my son to get him some more information about technical schools.

Bridge and Tunnel

Bridge and tunnel is a phrase used to refer to people who live outside of Manhattan, typically in New Jersey.

People call them bridge and tunnel because they need to use a bridge or a tunnel to get to the island of Manhattan.

e.g. I met someone at the park today. However, it took him an hour to get here because he is a bridge and tunnel.

Whip

When someone says something is a whip, they are talking about an expensive car.

e.g. My bro just got a new whip, and we are all going for a drive later!

OD

OD is short for “over doing” when something is too much.

e.g. My boss is OD on the early meetings this month.

Odee

Another slang term meaning very or extremely.

e.g. I am odee tired from that two hour delay on the E train this morning.

Jiggy

An older slang word, jiggy means means someone is energetic or loose.

e.g. After a few drinks at the party I was getting jiggy.

Forget About It

Forget about it a a phrase used to express agreement or disbelief

e.g. New York pies are the best in the world. Forget about it!

Schlep

A word meaning to go somewhere in an annoying or dramatic fashion.

e.g. My bodega was closed so I had to schlep to the one on 5th.


Train Line Slang Phrases

First, when someone refers to the train in New York, they are referring to the subway, not a railroad train like the Amtrak.

In New York, there are so many subway lines that speaking about them is basically their own language.

Each train line has a color and either a number or a letter.

Train Colors

The colored lines all run along the same main track but split off from each other.

For example, all blue lines run along a significant part of 8th Avenue.

Train Letters or Numbers

The number or letter is the specific line of the train. Although some overlap on different tracks, they all separate at some point.

Sometimes there is only one line you can take to get to a certain place; sometimes, there are more. The examples below will help you understand how someone in New York would talk about taking the train.

Train Slang Word Examples

For example, suppose you hear a man say he is taking the A train downtown. In that case, it means he is taking a specific train line in the south direction, either in or towards Manhattan.

Another example with the train line colors is: I need to pick up something on Broadway, so I have to take a Red lines.

e.g. If you want to go to the Mets game with us, you should take the 7 train instead of a car.

New York Slang

Congrats! You are now fluent in the language of NYC Slang.

Next time someone wants to go up to 7th Avenue to the bodega, or you have a message in your inbox that your friend is waiting on the stoop for you to go uptown for some pies, you will know exactly what they mean.

Images Sources:

  • newyork.cbslocal.com
  • wagner.edu
  • smithsonianmag.com
  • latimes.com
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