New York Slang Words: An Essential List of 25 Words

friends talking on street in New York City

Getty

Whether you’re schlepping to the city or grabbing some pie, you’re going to look mighty sus if you don’t brush up on your New York slang words. You can get much more specific here, as Brooklyn slang isn’t quite the same as what you might hear in Queens or Staten Island. For the purposes of this list of New York slang, though, we’ll keep it a little more general. Here’s how to talk like a proper New Yorker.
Advertisement

Beef

Beef is what your burgers are made of, but having beef is when you have a complaint or other grievance against a person or group. The beef in question is something that often results in an argument or fight.

  • Example: I’d steer clear of Terry. He’s got some real beef with you and is looking for a fight.

  • Scrabble Score: 9 points

  • WWF Score: 10 points

Bodega

More than a convenience store, a bodega is also a small grocery store. Here, you’ll often find some basic hot food items, coffee, and other essentials. For your convenience, we’ve also provided how much each of the New York accent words is worth in Scrabble and Words With Friends too.

  • Example: Can you run to the bodega and grab us a couple sandwiches?

  • Scrabble Score: 10 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

Brick

There’s cold, there’s very cold, and then there’s brick. Essentially, “brick” is a New York slang term for very, very cold. The harsh, staccato sound resonates with the stark brick construction of urban project housing in New York. You’ll usually use “brick” to describe the weather, but it can apply to other things too.

  • Example: I’d walk to the bodega, but it’s real brick outside right now.

  • Scrabble Score: 13 points

  • WWF Score: 15 points

(The) City

Don’t confuse “the city” with “New York City” or “the City of New York.” Even though New York City consists of five boroughs, New Yorkers really only mean Manhattan when they say “the city.”

aerial view manhattan downtown new york cityaerial view manhattan downtown new york city
  • Example: They’re heading into the city to catch Hamilton on Broadway.

  • Scrabble Score: 9 points

  • WWF Score: 9 points

Cop

While you may know “cop” as a common slang term for police, it also carries a different slang meaning when used as a verb. To cop something means to get something, usually in the context of buying that thing. 

  • Example: Yo, check out these sick kicks. I gotta cop that.

  • Scrabble Score: 7 points

  • WWF Score: 9 points

Crusty

Sometimes, there are things or people that you just want to avoid. The reason you want to avoid them is that they are all-around unclean or possibly even nasty. When you need a perfect word to describe such a thing or person, “crusty” is the New York slang you want.

  • Example: Ugh, that crusty-looking guy who works at the gas station is always so rude to me.

  • Scrabble Score: 11 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

Grill

Here’s another example where the slang term carries many meanings. Other places might use “grill” to mean asking questions in an increasingly aggressive manner. In New York, to grill someone is to stare rudely at them or give them a dirty look.

  • Example: Hey there, pal! How ‘bout you stop grilling me and move it along?

  • Scrabble Score: 6 points

  • WWF Score: 9 points

Guap

It’s all about that dough, bread, cheddar, paper, or scratch. While these other terms refer to money more broadly, “guap” is New York slang for a large sum of money. A “guap” is a lot of cash. 

  • Example: This new camera cost me a guap, but it’ll totally upgrade my YouTube game.

  • Scrabble Score: Not a valid word

  • WWF Score: Not a valid word

Hooptie

If you’ve got an old, beat-up car, one that’s covered in rust, dents and other wear, you might call it a beater. But, if you want to use proper New York slang to describe it, you’d call that piece of junk a hooptie.

  • Example: My old man’s hooptie has been taking up space in the garage for six years now.

  • Scrabble Score: 11 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

Kicks

It’s no secret that people will judge other people by the clothes they wear. That includes the shoes on their feet. To stay style-savvy in New York and avoid the critics, you need to get yourself a decent pair of shoes, otherwise known as “kicks.”

Hand holding sneaker in front of collectionHand holding sneaker in front of collection
  • Example: What do you think of my new kicks? It took me a month to get my hands on a pair.

  • Scrabble Score: 15 points

  • WWF Score: 16 points

Lit

Thanks to Gen Z and their slang, “lit” has become a popular phrase in the Big Apple. “Lit” is what you call something that you think is cool, amazing or worthy of being considered awesome.

  • Example: Man, that new club down the street is so lit.

  • Scrabble Score: 3 points

  • WWF Score: 4 points

Mad

Don’t get angry. “Mad” is just another way of saying “very.” If you’re having a lot of fun at a party, and the crowd is super energetic, you might say it’s mad lit. You can throw in the word “mad” almost anywhere for emphasis. 

  • Example: Wow, that’s some mad good pie right here.

  • Scrabble Score: 6 points

  • WWF Score: 7 points

Okurrr

Popularized by Cardi B, “okurrr” is a sassy way of saying “okay.” According to the popular rapper, you should roll your Rs so “okurrr” sounds like “a cold pigeon in New York City.” Be sure to check out our list of popular rap words for more hip hop slang. 

  • Example: This merch is pretty mediocre, but you know you’re still going to cop it, okurrr? 

  • Scrabble Score: Not a valid word

  • WWF Score: Not a valid word

Peep

The soft sounds of a baby bird aren’t what we’re discussing here. In New York, and any other region influenced by the city, to peep is to be aware of or alert to something.

  • Example: Did you peep that shady-looking guy hiding in the alleyway?

  • Scrabble Score: 8 points

  • WWF Score: 10 points

Pie

No lemon meringue or Boston cream here. New Yorkers mean pizza when they talk about pie. The term applies equally to sit-down restaurants with full pizzas and more casual takeaways where you can grab a slice. 

  • Example: Let’s go to Grimaldi’s in Dumbo for some pie. 

  • Scrabble Score: 5 points

  • WWF Score: 6 points

Ratchet

This word, which is also popular among rappers, is typically an insult. It’s a way to insinuate that someone is dirty, uncouth or just plain low-class. To that end, using the word often makes an underlying drama between two people even worse.

  • Example: I can’t believe she wore those stilettos here. She looks so ratchet in them.

  • Scrabble Score: 12 points

  • WWF Score: 12 points

Schlep

What you’ll find with New York slang words is that they derive from diverse origins. Some words come from African-American vernacular and rap lyrics. As New York has a large Jewish community, Yiddish is another common source of slang. “Schlep” is a verb describing the frustrating and exhausting act of getting from one place to another.

  • Example: I can’t believe I have to schlep all the way to the East Village.

  • Scrabble Score: 13 points

  • WWF Score: 15 points

Schmear

Speaking of Jewish culture and influence, the New York bagel is the stuff of legend. You could eat the bagel simply toasted with butter, but the full experience requires a schmear of cream cheese. It’s like a “smear” or “spread.”

new york bagel with cream cheese schmearnew york bagel with cream cheese schmear
  • Example: Tasty Bagels in Brooklyn offers a generous schmear.

  • Scrabble Score: 14 points

  • WWF Score: 15 points

Shtick

Also spelled schtick, “shtick” is an informal Yiddish term for a gimmick, theme, or a person’s special area of interest. It’s a person’s signature behavior or routine, the thing they always do and are known for doing.

  • Example: Everyone knows that Jerry Seinfeld’s schtick is observational humor. What is the deal with that? 

  • Scrabble Score: 15 points

  • WWF Score: 15 points

Spaz

“Spaz” is an example of a slang word that can mean two different things, neither of which is very nice. In some regions, someone who is a spaz is someone who is clumsy, awkward or weird. But when you use it as a New York slang word, to spaz (or “spaz out”) is to become aggressive and physically violent.

  • Example: Did you see what Jerry did? He totally spazzed on that guy who cut in line at the coffee shop.

  • Scrabble Score: 15 points

  • WWF Score: 16 points

Stoop

If you’ve ever watched a TV show or movie that takes place inside New York City, you’ve surely seen the small set of steps and the platform in front of an apartment building. It’s even in Sesame Street! That’s called a stoop and it’s a common place where residents like to sit, chat and pass the time.

friends on stoop in New York cityfriends on stoop in New York city
  • Example: There’s old Mr. Roberts sitting on his stoop and reading his newspaper again.

  • Scrabble Score: 7 points

  • WWF Score: 8 points

Sus

You can use “sus” to describe people and objects alike. It’s a New York slang term that’s short for “suspect” or “suspicious.” If a piece of equipment looks like it’s well-worn and in bad shape, you could say it’s “sus.” And if a person looks like a scam artist, they could be “sus” too.

  • Example: I don’t know, that guy looks mad sus. I wouldn’t trust what he has to say.

  • Scrabble Score: 3 points

  • WWF Score: 4 points

Tea

To spill the tea is to speak the truth, particularly when it comes to juicy gossip. You can also talk about getting tea or giving tea. The slang term derives from ball culture in the 1980s and 1990s, especially among LGBTQ drag competitions. 

  • Example: C’mon, spill the tea. We have to know what’s going on with those two! 

  • Scrabble Score: 3 points

  • WWF Score: 3 points

Tight

In some circles, “tight” might mean that a couple of people are really close. Joey and Chandler are super tight. In other circles, “tight” means something is really good. Wow, your outfit is looking tight! But, in New York slang, if someone is “tight,” it means they’re angry or upset.

  • Example: Don’t get all tight over rush hour crowds on the D train. It’s like this every day.

  • Scrabble Score: 9 points

  • WWF Score: 9 points

Whack

Here’s an adjective that you can use in so many different situations. If something is “whack,” it means that it’s really bad. Appalling, even. Depending on context, you could mean that the thing is low quality. It could also mean that it’s simply unfashionable or ugly. 

  • Example: The samosas from that bodega are whack. Go to the spot across the street instead.

  • Scrabble Score: 17 points

  • WWF Score: 17 points

Hey, I’m Talking New Yorker Here

Home to people from all around the world and from nearly every American subculture, New York is the perfect breeding ground for a diversity of slang. If you want to talk like a New Yorker, you’ll need to know your way around New York slang. Before you cross the country and hit up the West Coast, you’ll want to be down with California slang too. From the Bay Area to SoCal, the Golden State has, like, its own manner of speaking.

And did you know that you can use some slang in Words With Friends too? Slang from the city that never sleeps could be your path to winning every game.


Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.

Advertisement

See more popular articles