This list of the best New York City slang was written by Alejandro Beltran, a NYC local and long-time contributor to New York Simply. New York Simply creates expert guides on NYC based on firsthand experience and is an official partner of Apple Maps. We’re happy to have you here!
So you want to sound like a local while visiting the Big Apple? As a local I often find myself explaining the newest NYC lingo to friends, and I’ll pass that courtesy on to you as well.
In this article I’ll run through the essential New York City slang words and terms so you can fit right in while visiting the Big Apple.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Essential New York Slang
In New York mad is a synonym of words like really and very. So if I say “I’m mad tired” it means I’m really tired. If my wife says she’s “mad hungry” it means she’s very hungry.
This isn’t slang exclusive to New York City, but the locals have a way of effortlessly using it in everyday chats. It rolls off the tongue, and you’ll see how often it’s used as you continue to read this article.
When a New Yorker says it’s mad brick, it means it’s really cold. This is one of the most common slang words in New York City, and (for obvious reasons) you’ll hear it a lot in the winter.
Example: Grab your coat before you go, it’s mad brick.
Where I grew up when kids said tight it usually meant cool, like “yo, those shoes are tight!” but the word takes on a different meaning in New York.
When someone says they’re mad tight it means they’re really mad. If this common New York City slang is being directed at you it means someone is mad at you, don’t think they’re complimenting you.
Think of yerrrrr as a calling card to other New Yorkers. If we were wild animals it’d be like howling, because when somebody yells yerrrrrrr! all other New Yorkers better yerrrrrr! back.
Most often you’ll hear this New York City slang word among friends. Somebody will walk up their friends and say “yerrrrrr!, what’s good!”
I used to get excited when someone used to say they were “grilling,” but that faded away when I moved to New York. In NYC the phrase means staring, usually in an aggressive, mean, or judgemental way.
Example: That girl on the train was grilling me.
Bugging (or buggin) is NYC jargon for freaking out, overreacting or being annoying. The New York City slang comes from the root word bug, which are known pests. Similar to a fly annoyingly buzzing around your ear, somebody who’s hounding you or overreacting to a situation could be bugging.
Example: Quit bugging, I’ll pay you back on Friday.
Possibly one of my favorite New York City slang words, deadass essentially means seriously. When someone says something outlandish but follows it with deadass, you know they’re being honest.
Example: I deadass don’t have anything to wear.
The grim reality of slang is that it often reflects the harsh realities of the communities it comes from. OD (also spelled odee) is the perfect example, because it’s inspired by the term for overdosing (O.D.).
When someone says you’re OD-ing it means you’re doing too much. It can be both a positive and a negative depending on context. If you dress up nice and someone says you’re OD-ing it’s a compliment, but if you’re overdressed it could be seen as an insult.
Bodega is a word in Spanish that’s been adopted into the lexicon of everyday New Yorkers, even those who don’t speak the language. It translates to store, and the slang spread from predominately Hispanic neighborhoods into the wider New York City area.
The stores are generally small corner stores. They sell a little bit of everything and often offer hot-food made behind the counter, and most every New Yorker has a neighborhood bodega they frequent.
A relatively new term, ock refers to the person behind the counter of a bodega that makes you your food. The lingo was inspired by Ocky, an internet sensation who makes chopped cheeses and other bodega staples “the ocky way” at his bodega in Brooklyn.
Example: Yo ock, let me get a chopped cheese.
More Helpful Related Links:
Where to Eat Like a Local: 15 Flavorsome Street Food Vendors in New York City (Local’s Foodie Guide!)
How to Not Look Like a Tourist: 10 Things That Will Make You Look Like a Tourist in New York City
What to Avoid on a First Trip: 12 Terrible Tourist Traps in New York City (And How to Avoid Them)
Apps to Make Visiting Easier: 10 Helpful Apps To Download When Visiting NYC (For a First Trip)
New York City Slang Nicknames: 8 Interesting New York City Nicknames Everyone Should Know
And there you have it, folks! My roundup of the best New York City slang you should know to sound like a local. Until next time, Alejandro.