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10 New York City Slang Words to Make You Sound Like a Local

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City Slang

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.


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New York City slang, view from Top of the Rock

Essential New York Slang


Mad

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.


Brick

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.

best coats for NYC winter
Just because it’s mad brick outside doesn’t mean our smiles go away! | New York City slang

Tight

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.


Yerrrr!

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!”

New york City slang, Times Square
If you yell yerrrrr! in Times Square odds are somebody will say it back | NYC lingo

Grilling

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.


Buggin’

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.


Deadass

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.


OD/Odee

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

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.

New York City Slang, UWS bodega
Your friendly neighborhood bodega | NYC slang

Ock

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.


(Post Summary)

  • Mad
  • Brick
  • TIght
  • Yerrrr!
  • Grilling
  • Buggin’
  • Deadass
  • OD/Odee
  • Bodega
  • Ock

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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.

Rick

Friday 22nd of December 2023

I lived in New York City as a kid in the 70's, there were a lot of Yiddish words the locals would use regularly even if they weren't Jewish. Words like klutz, shmooze, schmuck, and schlep are still part of my everyday lingo, 50+ years later.