21 Quintessential New York Phrases That Leave the Rest of the US Baffled

(Last Updated On: )

New York City: a place so unique, it has its own language. If you’re not from the Big Apple, some things New Yorkers say might leave you scratching your head. Here’s a list of phrases that are quintessentially New York. Get ready to talk like a local!

1. “I’m Walking Here!”

shutterstock 1788418169 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / stockfour

This phrase is more than just words; it’s a declaration of a pedestrian’s right to the sidewalk. It epitomizes the busy, fast-paced New York lifestyle.

2. “Bodega”

shutterstock 728421994 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Alex King Pics

Not just any corner store, a bodega is a New York institution, selling everything from coffee to cat food, often with a beloved cat roaming the aisles.

3. “The City”

shutterstock 1156677910

Image Credit: Shutterstock / ymgerman

To New Yorkers, “The City” always means Manhattan, regardless of the fact that NYC is made up of five boroughs.

4. “Stand in Line”

shutterstock 467126900 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gena Melendrez

Forget about standing ‘in’ line. In New York, you stand ‘on’ line, whether you’re waiting for a bagel or a Broadway show.

5. “Schmear”

shutterstock 107200823 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / MSPhotographic

Want cream cheese on your bagel? In New York, you ask for a “schmear.” It’s the perfect amount of cream cheese spread.

6. “Pie”

shutterstock 2358207109 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / YARUNIV Studio

Ordering a ‘pie’ in New York usually means a whole pizza, not a dessert.

7. “Forget About It”

shutterstock 1308663652 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

It’s either used to say something is unbelievable or to indicate that the topic is not worth discussing further. It’s all about the tone.

8. “The LIRR”

shutterstock 235196071 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Matej Kastelic

This stands for the Long Island Rail Road, a major commuter train network serving Long Island and parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

9. “Regular Coffee”

shutterstock 1899404245 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Aleksandrs Muiznieks

In New York, a “regular coffee” is with cream and two sugars. No need to specify unless you want something different.

10. “Bridge and Tunnel”

shutterstock 604482875 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / oneinchpunch

This term is used somewhat pejoratively to describe people who commute to Manhattan from surrounding areas, not using the subway.

11. “Fuhgeddaboudit”

shutterstock 2121203237 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Krakenimages.com

A more New Yorker way to say “forget about it,” emphasizing a very strong opinion or the impossibility of a situation.

12. “Slice”

shutterstock 499682737 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Luna Vandoorne

When New Yorkers say they’re getting a “slice,” they mean a slice of pizza. It’s a staple of New York diets.

13. “Uptown” and “Downtown”

shutterstock 127037534 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK

These terms are used to describe direction within Manhattan. “Uptown” is north, and “Downtown” is south. Very important for navigating the subway!

14. “MetroCard”

shutterstock 1039529674 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ben Harding

The key to public transportation in NYC. It’s used to pay for rides on buses and subways.

15. “The Subway”

shutterstock 577810939 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Felix Lipov

In many cities, it’s called the metro, underground, or tube. In New York, it’s always “the subway.”

16. “Gravy”

shutterstock 1936038727 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Natalia Hanin

In some New York Italian households, “gravy” refers to tomato sauce, especially when it’s meat-based.

17. “NoHo” and “SoHo”

shutterstock 200210495 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / stockelements

Short for “North of Houston Street” and “South of Houston Street,” these are trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan known for their art galleries and shops.

18. “Boroughs”

shutterstock 118480225 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / pisaphotography

New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Each has its own unique character.

19. “Deadass”

shutterstock 2167940373 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / evrymmnt

This term is used for emphasis, equivalent to “seriously” or “for real.”

20. “The Village”

shutterstock 563342971 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ryan DeBerardinis

Refers to Greenwich Village, a neighborhood known for its bohemian lifestyle, arts scene, and vibrant nightlife.

21. “The Train”

shutterstock 97597316 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK

When a New Yorker says they’re taking “the train,” they mean the subway, not an above-ground train.

Learn the Lingo 

shutterstock 388625185 1

Image Credit: Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

Whether you’re visiting for a slice or staying for a schmear, knowing these phrases will help you navigate New York City like a local. So, next time you’re standing on line for a bagel, you’ll fit right in. Welcome to New York!

More Articles Like This…

Mastering Underwater Photography on Your Travels

One Day in…Ayutthaya, Thailand

Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations According to Tripadvisor 2024

The post 21 Quintessential New York Phrases That Leave the Rest of the US Baffled was republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

Tips for Trip Success

Book Your Flight
Find an inexpensive flight by using Kayak, a favorite of ours because it regularly returns less expensive flight options from a variety of airlines.

Book Your Hotel or Special Accommodation
We are big fans of Booking.com. We like their review system and photos. If we want to see more reviews and additional booking options, we go to Expedia.

You Need Travel Insurance!
Good travel insurance means having total peace of mind. Travel insurance protects you when your medical insurance often will not and better than what you get from your credit card. It will provide comprehensive coverage should you need medical treatment or return to the United States, compensation for trip interruption, baggage loss, and other situations.Find the Perfect Insurance Plan for Your Tripimage 9133145 14418597

PassingThru is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

To view PassingThru’s privacy policy, click here.

+ posts
+ posts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.