Awesome New York Expressions You Should Know

Erin Falter /
Erin Falter / | © Culture Trip
Diana DiCocco

Entering New York City can sometimes feel visiting a new country. Don’t fret – we’re not speaking a different language. These expressions will help you communicate like a true New Yorker when visiting the Big Apple.


Considering most New Yorkers do not own cars, since it is not essential while living in the city, traveling from point A to point B not within walking distance tends to get old pretty fast. Between finding the correct subway station, figuring out if/when you need to transfer, and attempting to hail a cab when they all seem to be full, there is a huffing-and-puffing level of exhaustion while commuting and traveling for non-work purposes. In New York, this action is called ‘schlepping.’ Example: I had to schlep from Bryant Park all the way downtown. I’m ready for bed.

You can find a ‘bodega’ on almost every corner of New York City. The term is most commonly used on the East Coast to describe a small mini-mart type store that sells anything from liquor and lotto tickets to magazines and grocery store products. Example: I’m hungry; let’s grab a bag of chips at the bodega around the corner.


Anyone who is new to New York may be confused when they hear the people in front of them on line order a ‘hero’ in a sandwich shop. Have no fear, they are not phoning in Superman because they just saw the Joker down the block. The city is safe – they are just ordering a sandwich that others may call a sub or hoagie. It’s usually a thick sandwich, consisting of a long roll of bread split into two pieces and filled with any meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables your heart desires. Example: Do you want a bite of my meatball hero? It’s delicious.


A ‘deli’ is a faster way for New Yorkers to say ‘delicatessen.’ A ‘deli’ is often a grocery store and restaurant that has a selection of fresh cold cuts, salads, and various prepared meals. It’s a good place to get a made-to-order sandwich, but make sure you check out if the deli is strictly take out, sit down, or both, depending on your preference. Example: I’m in the mood for a cheese and turkey sandwich. Let’s head to the nearest deli.

Wait on Line

In New York, when you are waiting to pay for something or go on a ride at an amusement park, you are waiting ‘on’ line, not ‘in’ line. No, we are not talking about surfing the Internet and waiting for a website to load. We are standing in between people anticipating our turn just like everybody else. Example: I hate shopping on Black Friday. I’ve been waiting on line for almost an hour.

Watch the Gap between the Train and the Platform

When traveling from Long Island to NYC, the LIRR becomes a New Yorker’s best friend with whom they have a love/hate relationship. After becoming an avid train commuter, there’s one warning that becomes stuck in your head. Most commuters even hear it in their sleep from time to time. When rushing off the LIRR train to get into the hustle and bustle of NYC, the booming sound system will never fail to remind you to ‘watch the gap between the train and the platform.’ They still haven’t been able to build a wider platform or a longer entrance to the train, so New Yorkers must be wary of the significant gap when exiting the train. Example: Okay, okay, I’ll watch the gap between the train and the platform. Now stop reminding me, it’s too early to be this loud and repetitive.

The City

Geographically speaking, New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. However, when a New Yorker mentions ‘the city,’ they are only talking about Manhattan. Example: I live in the city. What do you mean which borough? I just told you which one. Manhattan, of course.


A ‘stoop’ is a small staircase that concludes in a platform, leading to the entrance of an apartment. You’ll hear New Yorkers talking about sitting on their stoops on a nice summer day, watching the cars drive by. A great illustration of the importance of a New Yorker’s stoop is the Nickelodeon classic, Hey Arnold! Although the show takes place in the fictional town of Hillwood in an undisclosed location, various episodes suggest that Hillwood is located in New York City. In one of their episodes, they highlight the character, Stoop Kid, who is afraid to leave his stoop. Most New Yorkers have the same attachment to their stoops. Example: It is such a beautiful night. Why don’t we sit on our stoop and watch the lights of the city shine bright?

Going Uptown/Downtown

In NYC, giving directions to lost tourists requires the phrases ‘going uptown’ and ‘going downtown.’ The nice thing about Manhattan is that it is a grid, so it is fairly simple to find your way or give directions. ‘Going uptown’ simply means going north where the numbers of the streets increase, the latter meaning just the opposite. Example: Right now, we’re at Bryant Park on 40th Street. In order to get to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree between 47th and 50th Streets, we need to go uptown.

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