Like every other large cultural center, New York City has slang words, jargon, and abbreviations that are unique to the Big Apple. Learning the meaning of those words and phrases will be helpful if you are planning on visiting the city for any length of time. Also, some of them are just for fun. So take a look at our growing list of New York City slang, jargon, and abbreviations, and learn how to talk like a New Yorker.
New York City Slang, Jargon, and Abbreviations – Part I
By Lucas Compan, a guest storyteller
Wanna talk like a New Yorker? Then you gotta know the lingo.
Alphabet City – A Manhattan neighborhood located within the East Village. Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names. It is bordered by Houston Street to the south and by 14th Street to the north, along the traditional northern border of the East Village and the south of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Some famous landmarks include Tompkins Square Park and Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
Avenue of the Americas – Another name for 6th Avenue in Manhattan.
B.Q.E. – An acronym for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, (I-278) Interstate 278.
Break a leg – When someone say "break a leg" to someone else she is actually wishing the best, good luck, hoping everything goes very well. The expression has its origins in the theater. The origin of this imperative to a performer about to go on stage is unclear. It may have been a translation of the German Hals und Vein bruch ("Break your neck and leg"), also of unkown. Equally mysterious is the Italian equivalent, Nella bocca del lupo, "In the mouth of the wolf."
BTW – When chatting via text message. It means By The Way
Downtown – Lower Manhattan, also known as Downtown Manhattan, is the southernmost part of the island of Manhattan, them main island and center of business and government of the City of New York, which itself originated at the southern tip of Manhattan Island in 1624.
DUMBO – An upscale Brooklyn neighborhood. DUMBO is actually an acronym that stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass".
I am feeling like a million bucks – Especially in New York, people use this expression to tell others he/she is feeling fantastic
FiDi – The Financial District, also commonly referred to as Fidi is a neighborhood located at the southern tip of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, which comprises the offices and headquarters of many of the city's major financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District, New York City has been called both the most economically powerful city and the leading financial center of the world
FYI – You can use it when texting or emailing someone, and it stands for For Your Information.
Get a Slice – Buy a slice of pizza.
Going to "The City" – If you're in any one of the outer boroughs (Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island) traveling to Manhattan.
Gotham City – Or just Gotham is a fictional American city appearing in American comic book published by DC Comics, best known as the home of Batman. Gotham is a nickname for New York.
Greenwich Village – Often referred to by locals as simply "the Village", is a neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan, New York City. Greenwich Village has been known as an artists' haven, the Bohemian capital, the cradle of the modern LGBT movement, and the East Coast birthplace of both the Beat and '60s counterculture movements. Groenwijck, one of the Dutch names for the village (meaning "Green District"), was Anglicized to Greenwich. New York University (NYU) is located in Greenwich Village.
Houston Street – The street's name is pronounced "HOW-stən", unlike that of the city of Houston in Texas, which is pronounced "HYOO-stən". This is because the street was named for William Houstoun, whereas the city was named for Sam Houston.
Hell's Kitchen – A Manhattan neighborhood that is from 40th to 59th Streets between the Hudson River and Eight Avenue.
The Meat Packing District (or just Meatpacking) – A Manhattan neighborhood that was the central point where all the meat that was shipped to NYC was butchered and packaged for market. Many wholesale meat distributors are still in existence in the Meatpacking District, however the neighborhood has become trendy, with upscale lofts and boutiques popping up all over the area. Its border are Gansevoort Street to the South and West 15 Street to the north, between 9th and 11th Avenues.
NoHo – An acronym for "North of Houston". It's a Manhattan neighborhood bordered by Houston Street to the south, 8th Avenue to the north, the Bowery and Third Avenue on the east, and Broadway on the west.
Nolita – A trendy Manhattan neighborhood that is north of Little Italy. Its boundaries: Little Italy (Broom Street) to the south, Houston Street to the north, Bowery on the east, and Lafayette Street on the west side.
SoHo – The name "SoHo" refers to the area being "South of Houston Street", and was also a reference to Soho, an area in London's West End. It was coined by Chester Rapkin, an urban planner, and author of The South Houston Industrial Area study, also known as the "Rapkin Report".
OMG – Oh, My God!
23 Skidoo – Ever hear the old expression "23 Skidoo?" It means "get lost," and it came from the NYPD Officers who regularly patrolled in front of the Flatiron Building, chasing away the men hoping women's skirts fly up in the wind. "Scram," "Skedaddle," and "Skedat," are all modern expressions thought to hove originated from these incidents.
Speakeasy – A speakeasy, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, is an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. Such establishments came into prominence in the United States during the Prohibition era (1920–1933, longer in some states). During that time, the sale, manufacture, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcoholic beverages were illegal throughout the United States, except in Maryland. Speakeasies largely disappeared after Prohibition was ended in 1933, and the term is now used to describe some retro style bars.
The Big Macy's – The Macy's Flagship Store on 34th Street.
The Island – Refers to Long Island, never Manhattan or Staten Island.
The L.I.E. – An acronym for the Long Island Expressway (I-495), Interstate 495.
The Chelsea – Also called The Hotel Chelsea, The Chelsea Hotel or simply The Chelsea, is a living legend, an eccentric cocoon nurturing generations of geniuses and oddballs. Known to painters, writers, filmmakers, and musicians for over a century.
TTYL – When texting on your smartphone. It means Talk To You Later.
TYVM – Thank You Very Much
TriBeCa – Originally written as TriBeCa, is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York City, bordered by Canal Street (to the north) West Street (to the east), Broadway (to the west) and Vesey Street (to the south). The neighborhood is home to the Tribeca Film Festival, founded in March 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, and Craig Hatkoff. The festival now draws an estimated three million people—including often-elusive celebrities from the worlds of art, film, and music.
The Burg – A nickname for Williamsburg, a trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The Village – Nickname for Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in Manhattan. Its boundaries are Houston Street to the south, 14th Street to the north, Broadway on the east and the Hudson River on the west.
Train – It means the subway. When you are heading, say, Battery Park to visit the Statue of Liberty, and you ask for directions, people on the streets will say "Take the Downtown 1 train." – not subway.
Upstate – Any place in New York State north of Westchester County. Upstate New York includes the major cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Albany (the capital of the state of New York), and Syracuse.
Uptown – Denotes denotes the more northerly region of the New York City Borough of Manhattan. Its southern boundary may be defined between anywhere between 59th Street and 125th Street.
Upper East Side – Sometimes abbreviated UES. Upper East Side is the neighborhood of Manhattan between Central Park / Fifth Avenue, 59th Street, the East River, and 96th Street (South).
Upper West Side – Sometimes abbreviated UWS. The Upper West Side of Manhattan is a neighborhood that lies between Central Park and the Hudson River, and between West 59th Street and West 110th Street.
Very useful and helpful information for visitors / tourists
When visiting New York, have in mind that Fifth Avenue serves as the dividing line for house numbering. It separates, for example, East 35th Street from West 35th Street. From this zero point for street addresses, numbers increase in both directions as one moves away from Fifth Avenue, with 1 West 35th Street on the corner at Fifth Avenue, and 300 West 35th Street located three blocks to the west of it.
Knowing that also t helps a lot when you have to take the subway (train). For instance, if you are in Central Park and have plans to visit the One World Observatory (in Downtown, White Hall area on the map above) you take any Downtown-bound train.
After that, you want to take pictures at the Empire State Building (on Fifth Ave, between 33rd St and 34th St) or the Chrysler Building (on Fifth Ave and 42nd Street – both in Midtown, pink area on the map). So take any Uptown-bound train. When the trains stop at the platform, you will listen to the speaker saying, for example: "This an Uptown-bound local N train, the next stop is......"
Oh, one more thing: there is a difference between EXPRESS TRAINS (they skip some stops), and LOCAL TRAINS (stopping at all stations on that line). How do you know the which one is which? Well, you look at the sign flashing on all subway cars or listen to the speaker before getting into the train. It could save you a lot of time.
Too much information? Okay, so go one of those booths at all subway stops and ask for a map. You will have all info you need right there. It's for free. Now if you still have that weird feeling that you'll get lost, you could always hire a multilingual tour guide for a guided city tour.
Wanna know more about New York slang? Read Part II