June 29, 2024
14 minutes

Common Slang Terms from New York

Discover the hidden language of the concrete jungle! Uncover common NY slang terms and bridge the generational gap with style.

Understanding New York Slang

To navigate the vibrant linguistic landscape of New York, it's essential to have an understanding of the common slang terms used in everyday conversations. New York City slang serves as a cultural marker, distinguishing locals from outsiders and reinforcing a sense of community. Understanding and using New York City slang can help one connect with its people on a deeper level, creating a sense of belonging.

What is Slang?

"Slang" refers to informal words and phrases used in everyday conversations, often specific to certain regions or communities. It is an integral part of language evolution, reflecting cultural shifts and fostering social connections. Common slang terms from New York, such as "buggin'" or "mad," can cause confusion for those not familiar with the local dialect [2].

Importance of Slang in New York

New York City's diverse population has contributed to the development of slang terms that stem from various ethnic and cultural influences. These terms reflect the multicultural fabric of the city and often serve as markers of identity and community. They create a shared language among New Yorkers, fostering a sense of camaraderie and connection.

New York City slang is not just limited to casual conversations on the streets. It permeates various aspects of daily life, including music, movies, and art. It has become a part of the city's cultural identity, representing the resilience, diversity, and creativity of its residents.

Understanding the historical influences and the evolution of New York slang is crucial to fully grasp its significance in the city's cultural landscape. Factors such as cultural diversity, immigration, jazz and beatnik culture, hip-hop, and urban subcultures have all played a significant role in shaping New York City slang.

By delving into the classic and modern New York slang terms, as well as exploring how slang varies across generations and regions, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the richness and complexity of New York's linguistic tapestry. Embracing New York slang not only allows for better communication but also provides a gateway to understanding and connecting with the vibrant spirit of the city and its diverse inhabitants.

Historical Influences on New York Slang

To fully grasp the intricacies of New York slang, it's essential to delve into its historical influences. Several factors have shaped and molded the unique vocabulary and expressions found in the city. Let's explore three significant historical influences on New York slang: cultural diversity and immigration, jazz and beatnik culture, and hip-hop and urban subcultures.

Cultural Diversity and Immigration

New York City's diverse population has played a pivotal role in the development of slang terms that stem from various ethnic and cultural influences. The city's rich tapestry of immigrants from around the world has contributed to the linguistic melting pot [1]. As communities settled in different neighborhoods, they brought along their own dialects, expressions, and unique phrases, which eventually blended with the local vernacular. This fusion of languages and cultures has given birth to a vibrant and ever-evolving New York slang.

Jazz and Beatnik Culture

In the 1950s, New York City experienced the emergence of a new form of slang known as "cool talk," popularized by jazz musicians and beatniks. Expressions like "cool," "mama," "dig," and "hip" became synonymous with the jazz scene and the counterculture movement of the era. These slang terms found their way into everyday conversations, influencing the language of the city.

Additionally, the 1950s New York slang included phrases like "bread" (money), "pad" (apartment), "threads" (clothes), "shack up" (to live with a boyfriend or girlfriend), and "rip off" (to steal or swindle). These expressions reflected the urban culture and trends of the time, making their mark on the city's linguistic landscape.

Hip-Hop and Urban Subcultures

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, New York City became the birthplace of hip-hop culture, which had a profound impact on the city's slang. Hip-hop introduced a new lexicon, overflowing with vibrant and inventive expressions. From the b-boy and graffiti scenes to rap music, the urban subcultures of New York City became breeding grounds for innovative slang and linguistic creativity.

Hip-hop slang, with its distinctive cadence and wordplay, infiltrated everyday conversations, influencing not only the local communities but also popular culture globally. Expressions like "deadass" (really, seriously), "son" (a term for a person, often a male individual), and "bodega" (a corner store or deli) found their way into the city's linguistic fabric.

These historical influences, rooted in cultural diversity, jazz and beatnik culture, and hip-hop, have left an indelible mark on New York slang. The city's slang terms continue to evolve and adapt to modern trends, reflecting the vibrant and dynamic nature of New York City itself.

Classic New York Slang Terms

New York City has a rich history of unique slang that reflects its vibrant culture and diverse population. Here are some classic New York slang terms that have become synonymous with the city's identity:


In New York City, a "bodega" refers to a small 24/7 grocery store that sells various items, serving as a community hub for socializing. These corner stores are an integral part of the city's fabric, providing convenience and a sense of neighborhood connection. Whether you're grabbing a coffee or picking up a late-night snack, you're likely to find yourself in a bodega at some point during your time in the city.

The Big Apple

"The Big Apple" is a term used as a nickname for New York City, gaining popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in connection with the jazz scene. The origin of this term is often attributed to musicians who referred to New York City as the place where the big opportunities were for their careers. Today, "The Big Apple" is synonymous with the city and represents its grandeur, excitement, and endless possibilities.


This phrase, commonly associated with New York City and the Brooklyn accent, is used to dismiss or disregard something, often conveying disbelief or a "don't bother" attitude. Derived from the phrase "forget about it," "fuhgeddaboudit" has become an iconic expression in New York slang, capturing the city's unique attitude, directness, and nonchalant demeanor.


A commonly used slang term in New York City, "deadass" means "seriously" or "for real," used to emphasize the sincerity or truthfulness of a statement. This term is often used in casual conversation among friends or acquaintances to emphasize the speaker's honesty or to express surprise or agreement.


Derived from Yiddish and now part of New York City slang, "schlep" denotes a tedious or arduous journey or task, also used as a verb meaning to carry or haul something. In the context of New York City, where walking and public transportation are common modes of getting around, the term "schlep" is often used to describe the act of hauling oneself or belongings from one place to another, often with a sense of effort or inconvenience.

These classic New York slang terms are ingrained in the city's culture and have become iconic expressions that capture the spirit and attitude of the Big Apple. Whether you're a native New Yorker or a visitor to the city, understanding and using these slang terms can help you connect with the vibrant energy and unique language of New York City.

Modern New York Slang Terms

As language evolves, so does slang, and New York City is no exception. Here are some modern New York slang terms that have gained popularity in recent years:


The term "yerr" is a common greeting used in New York City, similar to "What's up?" or "Hey!" It is often used as a way to acknowledge someone or get their attention. This slang term adds a touch of urban flair to everyday conversations and can be heard on the streets of the Big Apple.


"Lit" is a popular slang term used in New York City to describe something that is exciting, amazing, or cool. It is often used to express enthusiasm or approval. Whether referring to a party, a performance, or a social gathering, saying something is "lit" indicates that it's a thrilling experience.


In New York City slang, "ship" is used as a shortened form of "relationship." It is commonly used to express support for a romantic pairing or to show approval of a couple. When someone says they "ship" a couple, they are endorsing and rooting for the success of their relationship.

Sksksk and And I Oop

"Sksksk" and "and I oop" are popular expressions used by Gen Alpha in New York City to convey excitement, surprise, or embarrassment. These phrases are often used in text messages or social media conversations to express strong emotions or reactions. "Sksksk" is an onomatopoeic expression that represents laughter or amusement, while "and I oop" is used to acknowledge a mistake or a surprising moment.


In New York City slang, "tea" refers to gossip or juicy information. It is commonly used to discuss rumors, news, or interesting details about others in casual conversations or online interactions. When someone says they have "tea" or asks for "the tea," they are seeking the latest scoop or intriguing stories.

These modern New York slang terms have become an integral part of the city's vibrant and ever-evolving language. Embracing and understanding these phrases can help you navigate conversations with New Yorkers and stay in the loop with the latest trends in the city's slang scene.

New York Slang Across Generations

Slang terms evolve and change over time, often varying between different generations. Understanding the slang used by different age groups can help bridge communication gaps and foster better understanding. Let's explore how slang differs among baby boomers, Gen X, and millennials, as well as how younger generations, like Gen Z, are adapting to the ever-changing linguistic landscape.

Boomers and Gen X

Baby boomers and Generation X may find it challenging to keep up with the rapidly evolving slang of younger generations. According to a survey, 30% of Gen X individuals expressed difficulty understanding their younger colleagues, while 68% of boomers dislike the term "woke".

Some popular slang terms among boomers include words like "bummer," "mellow," and "wannabe." Gen X individuals tend to use phrases such as "chill," "lame," and "bummer". While there may be some generational gaps in understanding, both boomers and Gen X are making efforts to learn and comprehend newer slang terms to better connect with younger relatives and colleagues.

Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials, born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, often adopt and use the slang popularized by younger generations. They tend to incorporate younger generations' favorite phrases into their own vocabulary, even using them in professional settings to fit in.

On the other hand, Gen Z, the youngest generation, turns to platforms like TikTok to learn and understand new slang terms. When faced with difficulty in comprehending slang, they seek out online resources and communities to bridge the language gap. Gen Z individuals favor terms such as "selfie," "OMG," and "ghosted" [8].

Bridging the Slang Gap

Bridging the slang gap between generations is an ongoing process. It requires open-mindedness and a willingness to learn and adapt. While each generation may have their own preferred terms, understanding and appreciating the linguistic differences can help foster better communication and connection.

To bridge the slang gap, it's important for individuals of different generations to engage in open and respectful conversations. Sharing experiences and perspectives can help create mutual understanding and acceptance. Additionally, online platforms and social media can serve as valuable resources for learning about current slang trends and popular phrases.

By embracing the ever-evolving nature of language and slang, we can foster connection and build bridges across generations. Slang is not only a means of communication but also a reflection of the cultural shifts and influences of each era. So, let's celebrate the diversity of slang and the ways it brings people together, regardless of age.

Regional and State-Specific Slang Terms

Slang is not only unique to New York but can also vary from region to region, reflecting the local culture and identity. Here are some regional and state-specific slang terms that have gained popularity in different parts of the United States.

Wyoming: "All That and a Bag of Chips"

In Wyoming, a popular slang term is "All That and a Bag of Chips." This phrase is used to describe someone or something that is exceptional, outstanding, or impressive. It signifies that the person or thing is not only great but also comes with an extra element of awesomeness. So, if someone in Wyoming refers to you as "all that and a bag of chips," consider it a high compliment.

Utah: "Ghosted"

In Utah, the term "ghosted" has become a common slang term. It refers to when someone suddenly stops responding to messages, calls, or any form of communication without any explanation. This term originated from the dating scene, where it describes the act of abruptly cutting off contact with someone, leaving them wondering what happened. However, over time, "ghosted" has expanded beyond dating and is now used to describe any situation where someone disappears without a trace.

California: "Swag"

In California, the term "swag" has gained popularity among the younger generation. It is often used to describe someone who has a stylish and confident demeanor. "Swag" can refer to a person's overall coolness, fashion sense, or ability to exude a certain aura of confidence and charm. This slang term has become ingrained in California's youth culture, representing a sense of self-assuredness and individuality.

Idaho: "Bogus"

In Idaho, the term "bogus" is frequently used to describe something that is fake, false, or not genuine. This slang term is often employed to express disbelief, disappointment, or the recognition of something that is not as it seems. It has become a part of the local lexicon, used by Idahoans to convey their skepticism or displeasure with certain situations or individuals.

Midwest: "Totally Tubular"

In the Midwest, particularly among the younger population, the term "totally tubular" has seen a resurgence. This phrase harkens back to the 1980s and is used to describe something that is really cool, awesome, or impressive. It evokes a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era while adding a touch of enthusiasm and excitement to conversations. If you hear someone in the Midwest exclaim "totally tubular," they are expressing their admiration or approval.

Multiple States: "Daddy-O"

Across multiple states, the term "daddy-o" has transcended time to become a classic slang term. This phrase emerged in the 1950s as part of the Beatnik subculture and is still occasionally used in casual conversations today. "Daddy-o" is a friendly way to address someone, similar to "man" or "dude." It adds a touch of retro charm and is often associated with the cool and laid-back attitudes of the past.

These regional and state-specific slang terms highlight the rich linguistic diversity across the United States. Embracing and understanding these local expressions can help foster connections and bridge cultural gaps, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the different regions and their distinct identities.

The Evolution of New York Slang

As with any form of language, slang terms continually evolve and change over time. New York slang is no exception, adapting to reflect societal trends and influences. In this section, we will explore the factors that contribute to the evolution of New York slang, including language trends and the impact of social media and technology.

Language Trends and Popularity

Language trends play a significant role in shaping the evolution of slang. The popularity of certain terms can rise and fall, influenced by factors such as cultural shifts, generational preferences, and media exposure. To gain insights into the popularity of slang terms, Preply studied 100 slang terms on Google Trends over the past 12 months [8]. They found that 70 of these terms are considered vintage, while 30 are classified as modern slang.

The study also analyzed the search volume of slang words in each state and the 50 largest U.S. cities. This research provides valuable data on the regional variations and popularity of specific slang terms. For example, some state-specific popular slang terms include "all that and a bag of chips" in Wyoming, "ghosted" in Utah, "swag" in California, "bogus" in Idaho, and "totally tubular" in parts of the Midwest.

Impact of Social Media and Technology

The rise of social media and technology has greatly influenced the evolution of New York slang. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter have become hubs for sharing and popularizing slang terms. The fast-paced nature of these platforms allows for the rapid spread of new words and phrases, leading to their integration into everyday conversations.

Social media platforms also provide a space for slang to develop its own subcultures and communities. Users can create hashtags, challenges, and trends that revolve around specific slang terms, further amplifying their popularity and reach. Additionally, the ability to share content instantly and globally has contributed to the widespread dissemination of New York slang beyond the city itself.

Technology has also impacted the evolution of New York slang through the use of texting and messaging apps. Abbreviations, acronyms, and emojis have become an integral part of communication, giving rise to new forms of slang. These digital expressions allow for concise and creative ways of conveying thoughts and emotions, further shaping the linguistic landscape of New York slang.

As language trends continue to shift and social media platforms evolve, it is certain that New York slang will continue to adapt and transform. The influence of technology and the interconnectedness of our digital world will undoubtedly contribute to the development of new slang terms and the evolution of existing ones. Observing these trends and understanding their impact is key to staying up to date with the ever-changing landscape of New York slang.

Embracing New York Slang

New York City slang is more than just a collection of words and phrases. It serves as a cultural marker, distinguishing locals from outsiders, and reinforcing a sense of community. Understanding and using New York City slang can help individuals navigate the city's social landscape and connect with its people on a deeper level [1]. Let's explore how embracing New York slang can foster connection, adapt to new generations, and appreciate its cultural significance.

Using Slang to Connect

New York City's slang is not just limited to casual conversations on the streets. It permeates various aspects of daily life, including music, movies, and art. It has become a part of the city's cultural identity, representing the resilience, diversity, and creativity of its residents. By embracing and using New York slang, individuals can connect with others who share a similar linguistic code. It creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie, allowing for more authentic and meaningful interactions.

Using slang can also serve as a way to break the ice and initiate conversations. When people hear familiar slang terms, it signals a shared understanding and common ground. It can spark conversations, laughter, and create an instant bond. Whether you're a native New Yorker or a visitor, using New York slang can help bridge the gap and facilitate connections with others.

Adapting to New Generations

Slang is constantly evolving, and each new generation brings its own set of linguistic expressions. Adapting to new generations' slang can help individuals stay connected and relevant in an ever-changing linguistic landscape. Baby boomers and Gen X, for example, express a willingness to learn new slang terms to understand their younger relatives better. Gen Z, on the other hand, turns to platforms like TikTok when they encounter unfamiliar slang. Millennials often adopt younger generations' favorite phrases and may even incorporate them into their professional lives to fit in.

By embracing new slang terms and incorporating them into our vocabulary, we can bridge the language gap between generations. It allows for better communication and understanding among different age groups, fostering a sense of unity and connection.

Appreciating the Cultural Significance

New York City's diverse population has contributed to the development of slang terms that stem from various ethnic and cultural influences. These terms reflect the multicultural fabric of the city and often serve as markers of identity and community. By appreciating and using New York slang, individuals show respect and admiration for the cultural richness and diversity of the city.

Moreover, understanding and appreciating the cultural significance of New York slang can lead to a deeper understanding of the city itself. Slang terms often reflect the lived experiences, history, and unique character of a place. By immersing ourselves in the slang of New York City, we gain insights into its vibrant culture, its people, and the stories that shape the city.

In conclusion, embracing New York slang allows individuals to connect with others, adapt to new generations, and appreciate the cultural significance of the city. By using slang, individuals can foster connections, break down barriers, and celebrate the linguistic richness of New York City. So next time you hear a familiar New York term, don't be afraid to embrace it and join in the linguistic tapestry of the city.


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