Most of the time, when someone says, “New York,” you think of New York City. However, this is a very narrow viewpoint that doesn’t accurately capture the state in all its glory. Although most of the people who live in New York state come from the city, there are still many people who live outside of it.
This particular guide is dedicated to those people. We’ve pulled together a list of upstate New York slang words that you might hear as you travel into the northern, more rural parts of the state.
Upstate New York Slang Words (in Alphabetical Order)
A Couple X
- (Adjective): This is kind of a hard one to describe. In Upstate New York, you may hear some people adding “couple” in front of any amount of a particular unit of time.
- Example: “I’ll see you in a couple four months.”
Read Also: New York City Nicknames
- (Noun): This quick and snappy term refers to Alexandria Bay, a popular camping destination in Upstate New York.
- Example: “We’re planning on camping in A-Bay next week.”
- (Adjective): This popular New York slang term drifts up farther north into the state from the city. It’s a positive descriptor that means something is excellent.
- Example: “The new restaurant that opened up down the block is ace.”
- (Noun): This sounds more intimidating than it actually is. A bomber is an elongated sandwich that you might otherwise know as a sub. This particular slang term comes from Buffalo.
- Example: “I grabbed a bomber on my lunchbreak.”
- (Adjective): Brick is another slang term that spread through the state from NYC. It means very cold.
- Example: “It’s brick out there, so make sure you wear a bunch of layers.”
- (Noun): This may be specific to only a few towns in Upstate New York, but if you’re in one of those towns, you might know Cabbage Night as the night before Halloween. It’s like Devil’s Night: a night of mischief-making and pranks that occurs before Halloween.
- Example: “Some kids egged Bob’s house on Cabbage Night, and he’s been on a warpath ever since.”
Can of Worms
- (Noun): Refers to a particular highway interchange in Rochester. It’s a messy area on the highway that many people will avoid by taking other routes when possible.
- Example: “She does whatever she can to avoid the Can of Worms.”
- (Noun): If you think this is a hot dog with onions on it, you’re wrong. In Upstate New York, a Coney means a white hot dog made from a mixture of meats.
- Example: “My favorite dinner is just a couple coneys and a can of Keystone Light.”
- (Noun): Some Upstate New Yorkers affectionately call the Adirondack Mountains the ‘Dacks.
- Example: “I grew up around the ‘Dacks.”
- (Adjective): More popular slang from the city. It means you’re being serious about something.
- Example: “My boyfriend deadass lied to my face last night.”
Related Article: 55+ Brooklyn Slang Words
- (Noun): In other parts of the country, you probably call it a potluck. In Upstate New York, though, you might hear it called a dish-to-pass dinner.
- Example: “Marjorie brought her famous casserole to the dish-to-pass dinner.”
- (Noun): Downstate New York. There’s a bit of a debate over where the line between Upstate and Downstate New York can be drawn, but many people put that boundary on the northern edge of Orange County.
- Example: “We’re driving to Downstate this weekend.”
- (Noun): An extremely old-fashioned term that comes from the days before modern fire stations. The word still lingers, and some Update New Yorkers will use it to refer to fire stations.
- Example: “The fire barn burned down a couple weeks ago. Isn’t that ironic?”
- (Noun): A time-honored tradition in Upstate New York that consists of serving fried fish. It’s particularly popular during Lent, when many people give up meat.
- Example: “I got a huge plate of fish at the fish fry last night.”
- (Noun): Contrary to what you may think, this does not mean a plate of garbage. This is a Rochester-based dish that has a little bit of everything in it, including fries, hot dogs, macaroni salad, and beans.
- Example: “You haven’t lived until you’ve gotten a garbage plate.”
- (Noun): A special type of cookie originating from Utica. Half the cookie is covered in light buttercream.
- Example: “There’s nothing quite as delicious as a good halfmoon cookie.”
- (Noun): In Upstate New York, they sometimes chop off the last two letters of the word “hamburger” when referring to a burger. Don’t be confused if you hear shredded beef also referred to as hamburg meat.
- Example: “For dinner, he had a couple hamburgs.”
- (Noun): In other places in the state, you might hear people saying “on line” instead of “in line” when they’re waiting in a queue. In Upstate New York, however, they say “in line.”
- Example: “We had to wait in line for over an hour.”
- (Noun): What other states know as Coneys, Upstate New Yorkers call Michigans. These are hot dogs topped with chopped onions, a meat sauce, and mustard.
- Example: “I’m not going to the party unless someone makes Michigans there.”
- (Noun): Many areas in the United States call carbonated drinks soda. Some regions in Upstate New York call it pop instead.
- Example: “If you’re thirsty, there’s a couple cans of pop in the fridge.”
- (Noun): Poutine is well-known as having originated in Canada, but you’ll encounter it in Upstate New York, too. It consists of French fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds. Not the healthiest dinner, but it’s delicious!
- Example: “Want to split an order of poutine with me?”
- (Noun): An extremely popular combo in Upstate New York. It’s exactly what it sounds like: potatoes with a little bit of salt.
- Example: “There’s nothing like a hearty side of salt potatoes with your dinner.”
- (Noun): See Hamburgs.
- (Noun): This is a common nickname for the biggest city in the state: New York City. Everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about when you just call it the city.
- Example: “My family took a trip to The City on our vacation.”
- (Noun): A particular area in Upstate. The full name is Tug Hill Plateau, and it’s infamous for the brutal, snow-heavy winters it gets.
- Example: “She lives in Tug Hill, so she has to keep a good pair of snow boots and a shovel at home.”
- (Adjective): A term that comes from skater slang. It’s another way of saying “awesome.” It can sometimes also be used as an emphasizing word like “very.”
- Example: “That movie was wicked!”
In terms of sheer land size, Upstate New York is a much larger part of the state than the city that everyone knows about. However, there’s no denying the cultural influence of New York City.
If you want to see a comprehensive compilation of slang terms from the city, look at our list of NY slang.