Most people are familiar with New York City slang words. It’s no surprise that our big city phrasing trickles down the pipeline to the rest of the country. NYC is a major trendsetter. (Que Alicia Keys’ “New York.”) The English language because of its Germanic and Dutch roots, if often considered the language with one of the largest word counts. New York slang is constantly being updated to the OED—that’s the Oxford English Dictionary, son. The words “bae,” “yeesh,” and “fake news” were updated in 2019.
If you have been living in New York City for any given amount of time, then you are probably accustomed to NYC slang. New Yorkers know that “dead-ass,” is punctuated speech for: it’s serious and is often accompanied by “real talk,” maybe some hand clapping for added effect.
Thanks to popular TV shows like The Sopranos, words like “Gobagool” (Italian meat Capocollo) have infiltrated the New Yorker lexicon. Also, in large part to the popularity of another HBO show, Broad City, the phrase “Yass, Queen,” is often associated with NYC. You can find “Yass Kween” stitched on a Pier One pillow; NYC slang is mainstream.
New York City like any other city or region has its colloquialisms. For example, the slang “ratchet,” has been popularized in music and pop culture. Most people will understand the word to mean trashy or uncouth. Interestingly, “ratchet” although a common slang word in NYC, is a Louisiana regiolect from the term “wretched.”
Even Vermont has their schtick, the slang “freshies,” means fresh snow (cool story). In case you were not aware, “schtick” is a popular Yiddish word in NYC. See this article for more Yiddish to add to your vocab.
Below are 9 essential NYC Slang Words, to read while you are waiting on line for the train as we say. You don’t que up, it’s not London.
1. Tight in NYC Slang
“Tight” must be the most quintessential New York slang word next to “whack” and “thirsty.” Tight in normal usage refers to compatibility or a harmonious arrangement. In NYC speak, if someone says they are tight, then they are expressing anger.
For instance: These slow walkers and this L train got me mad tight. I am now going to be late for work.
New Yorkers love a good Yiddish slang term. Some other popular Yiddish phrasings are “putzing,” “schlepping.” Thanks to the show Seinfeld, many of these New York City words are commonplace. The word “Schvitz” means sauna. It is often used as a verb to mean sweating.
For example, Aaron’s girlfriend found make-up on his sheets that wasn’t hers and now Aaron is schvitzing with his guilty conscience.
3. Gucci in NYC Slang
Some say “Gucci” is an ’08 word. However, today it means something is good or cool.
In a text message, you might say, “Can you go pick-up some brie and a baguette at Trader Joes? We Gucci?”
If you haven’t heard Cardi B’s trademark, “okurrr,” then you’re probably living under a rock. Rapper, actress, and TV personality Cardi B was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx. “Okurrr ” is best said in a Cardi- Esque high-pitch shrill to signify the sentiment: okay.
Sentence: I am going to straight-up quit this punk ass job, once I get my tax refund, okurrr.
The term “Boss,” really needs no introduction for New Yorkers. However, if you are not from the area, the word can be a bit of a misnomer. Cabbies and bodega guys say “boss” often. In the south, they say “coach.” It just means male, whereas “sis” means woman. Although, if someone calls you “mama,” then you know it’s legit.
For reference: Yo Boss, your blueberry bagel with onions and scallion cream cheese is on the counter. Also, that’s a whack combo, bro.
Everyone knows the New York City slang “tea,” thanks to all the Kermit the Frog memes on Facebook. Kermit is speaking the “tea” or truth while drinking his quite literal, Lipton tea.
For instance: I must spill some tea, I like Dr. Phil. His murder podcast and Texas accent is giving me new life in the morning on my way to work. No judgment.
7. Bodega in NYC Slang
The most vital word in all of New York City slang is the word “bodega.” Bodegas for many New Yorkers and Brooklynites, are our main lifelines. We buy cat food, guac, and BECs all in one place, the bodega. If you don’t know what a BEC is, check-out our article on famous New York foods. Interestingly, “bodega” has Latin roots from the word apothecia (storehouse).
In usage: You see your bodega with the chandelier that is open even at 3 AM, is a magic house.
“Mad” is NYC slang to emphasis “very.” It does not denote anger.
Meaning: She has a full-time job and three side hustles, mad respect.
9. SVU’d in NYC Slang
Personally, the slang “SVU’d” is my new favorite expression. The term came about when a character on Broad City lost her iPhone. If you have ever watched Law and Order: SVU, then you know that the opening of a female jogger running through Central Park is a prelude to rape, kidnapping, or murder.
Sentence: Hey, I just downloaded this app that pinpoints all crimes committed within my radius. Could you stay on the phone with me, while I walk home? I don’t want to get SVU’d, kay thanks.