11 Nicknames for New York City

11 Nicknames for New York City

New York City’s nicknames are memorable world wide. But there are a few lesser known monikers that we’ve dug up to share with you today. Dive into the rich history of NYC and its abundance of nicknames with us now.

The Origins of New York’s Nicknames

New York is an American city with a wealth of history, and many of its nicknames stem from its past as a political center, an entertainment hub, and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. 

The Big Apple

The most well known of New York City’s nicknames is The Big Apple. Whilst LA’s nickname of The Big Orange stems both from its produce (and as a play off NYC), The Big Apple surprisingly doesn’t refer to the fruit the city grows.

This New York nickname came into fruition due to horse racing in the 1920s. The stable hands referred to going to NYC’s racetracks as ‘the big apple’ and racing journalist John J Fitz Gerald started using it in his columns after overhearing it. The earliest instance being published on the 31st May 1921 in the New York Morning Telegraph. 

The Big Apple started to take off throughout the 20s, and by the end of the decade it was a popular song played by jazz musicians. 

The New York City nickname had a resurgence in the 1970s, being used for tourism purposes and has stuck ever since. 

The City that Never Sleeps

It’s no surprise where this particular NYC nickname comes from, due to the bustling nature of the city. This name came into use in the 1950s and remains to this day. With the city having a large number of clubs, bars, and nightlife that remain open 24hrs – this truly is the city that never sleeps.

Concrete Jungle

Those familiar with Alicia Key’s song ‘Empire State of Mind’ will know this New York City nickname well. Concrete Jungle refers to the built up nature of this popular tourist city. It’s unclear where this phrase first sprang from, with similar terms being used in literature from Upton Sinclair (1947 novel ‘The Jungle’). 

The first full instance of this New York nickname being published was in Desmon Morris’s book ‘The Human Zoo.’ It was then used again by Bob Marley in his song ‘Concrete Jungle.’

Capital of the World

New York is synonymous with its iconic architecture (Empire State & Brooklyn Bridge we’re looking at you), memorable landmarks (like Times Square), and art contributions (The Met). All of these make NYC one of the hottest tourist destinations on the planet – which is where the Capital of the World originated from. 

We think some of the rest of the world’s best cities may have a bone to pick with this nickname for New York!

The City So Nice They Named it Twice

The City So Nice They Named it Twice originates from New Yorks’ jazz scene. With vocalist Jon Hendricks singing ‘New York, New York, a city so nice they named it twice’ in George Russell’s 1959 song ‘Manhattan.’

It could also refer to the fact that New York City is located in New York state – or that NYC is often referred to as simply Manhattan.


Manhattan, whilst often used as a nickname for NYC is actually only one part of this vibrant city. The familiar ‘island’ you see on maps of the city is Manhattan, but surrounding areas of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island also make up New York City.

The Five Boroughs

Following on from Manhattan, the nickname ‘The Five Boroughs’ is used to describe the all encompassing area of NYC. If you’re visiting the area, we strongly suggest you branch out from the island of Manhattan and take time to discover Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. 

New Amsterdam

In the 17th century, the Dutch made a settlement in the Southern area of what is now Manhattan Island. They named this settlement New Amsterdam, which went on to have 1,500 people living in it. When the English took over in 1664, they renamed the area New York.

Empire City

You’d be forgiven for thinking this nickname for New York stems from the iconic Empire State Building, however it came to life earlier than that. The first document source of this name came in a 1785 letter from George Washington who coined New York State the ‘seat of the Empire’ and hence NYC became known as the Empire City.


Batman fans will be all too familiar with NYC’s doppelganger Gotham City in the popular franchise. Gotham city is far darker than the New York we know, but this is quite a fun nickname for an all too inspiring city. 

The City of Dreams 

Those chasing the American dream often think of New York when imagining their future. Whether you dream of acting on Broadway or attending one of the world’s best colleges, you can’t get much better than The City of Dreams.

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