44 New York City Nicknames and the Stories Behind Them

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A city of skyscrapers and a bridge over a body of water
As a world-renowned city, it's not surprising that New York has lots of nicknames

As one of the most well-known places in the world, with a rich history and culture, it's no surprise that NYC has many nicknames. The vibrant city is a financial and fashion hub, with other industries like the media and entertainment industries also prevalent.

NYC additionally has a slightly dark past as well as more upbeat achievements, like being home to one of the most culturally diverse urban areas in the world. All of these things have left their mark on the city, with nicknames related to various events and characteristics being created.

Want to learn more about New York City nicknames? Keep reading for top monikers and slogans associated with NYC, along with a few lesser-known ones!

44 Nicknames for New York City

New York City Nicknames Video

Check out our highlights video of New York City nicknames.

Yellow cabs and a bus on the road near buildings
New York City is known for its yellow taxi cabs

Cab City

Cab City is one of the New York City slogans that makes a lot of sense. NYC is known for its yellow taxi cabs that you can see across all five boroughs. In some areas, most vehicles on the road are yellow cabs. By law (meaning the cabs are legally registered), there are just over 13,500 taxi cabs in NYC.

America's City

As one of the most well-known cities in the United States, it's no surprise that New York City has gone by the nickname America's City. This nickname came about after the September 11 terrorist attacks, positioning the city as the heart of the country post-9/11.

Fun City

Due to the numerous attractions in NYC, it's not too surprising that the area has the nickname Fun City. This specific name is thought to come from Mayor John Lindsay in 1966, who said he thought New York was still a fun city despite a widespread transit strike. It has been used both literally and sarcastically since.

A red building with spires near trees and a body of water
Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island viewed NYC as the "Golden Door" to the US

Golden Door

New York City has a history of being a destination, or at least a landing place, for immigrants. This is primarily due to the Ellis Island immigration center in NYC. Many saw the United States as the land of opportunity and New York was the Golden Door, giving them access to the wealth and opportunity to be had across the country.

Gotham City

You most likely know of Gotham City from DC Comics as the home city of Batman. But did you know that it's also an NYC nickname? This moniker supposedly dates back to the 19th century and Washington Irving. It was used in his satirical periodical Salmagundi and was inspired by Gotham in Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom.

Little Spaces Big City is one of the lesser-known New York City nicknames
New York City has lots of small apartments to fit its large population

Little Spaces Big City

While the five boroughs of New York City cover a decent area (and are "big" in the metaphorical sense), there's a large population to fit into that space. NYC has the largest population of any US city but is only the 28th largest by area.

This has led to the creation of micro-units and small apartments to fit as many units as possible into a restricted area, especially in Manhattan. The situation led to NYC becoming associated with the phrase Little Spaces Big City.

Metropolis

Another comic book name relating to New York City is Metropolis. This fictional city is found in the Superman comics, with many feeling it represents NYC well. New Yorkers now follow the explanation put forward by Frank Miller that New York is Metropolis by day and Gotham City at night!

An old building with lots of windows near other buildings
New Amsterdam can still be seen inscribed on the Manhattan Municipal Building

New Amsterdam

This one isn't so much a nickname but instead a New York City fact about its former name. The area now known as NYC was a Dutch settlement at the start of the 17th century.

European colonists often named their settlements after places from home, hence New Amsterdam, after the present-day Dutch capital city. When the English took over the territory in 1664, they renamed it New York after the Duke of York.

New Orange

Another name relating to New York's time under Dutch rule is New Orange. After the British gained control of the area, the Dutch fought back and re-gained possession, changing the English name of New York to New Orange. However, the British finally got the land back in 1674, and the name reverted to New York.

Skyscrapers near a park with a lake and trees during fall
The Big Apple became popular when used in an NYC tourism campaign in the 1970s

The Big Apple

The Big Apple is undoubtedly the most well-known nickname for NYC. This nickname can be traced to the start of the 20th century, with the most famous use being by John J. Fitz Gerald.

The sports writer mentioned the phrase in a piece for the New York Morning Telegraph. It was then briefly used over the next few decades before being incorporated into a tourism campaign in the 1970s, which is when the moniker in reference to New York City really stuck.

The Big Onion

The Big Onion is a play on the more well-known nickname, the Big Apple. It's generally thought to relate to the layers of cultures and ethnicities found in the city, with "onion" being chosen as they have multiple layers.

A low-angle shot of an old building with pillars and American flags near skyscrapers
NYC plays a big role in global financial markets, hence the Capital of Finance name

The Capital of Finance

New York City is a well-known player in the global financial market and is home to the renowned Wall Street. On Wall Street, you'll find the two largest stock exchanges in the world, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq.

Due to it consistently ranking number one on the Global Financial Centres Index, the city gained the moniker The Capital of Finance.

The Capital of the World

The Capital of the World is another of the more well-known nicknames for NYC. It's thought to have first been mentioned in the 1948 essay Here is New York by E. B. White.

The name refers to NYC being one of the most notable cities in the world due to its influence on culture, global finance, and world events, in part because it's home to the United Nations Headquarters.

A busy street with cars surrounded by commercial buildings with billboards and signs
Times Square in Manhattan is sometimes called the Center of the Universe

Center of the Universe

Expanding on the last nickname, NYC is sometimes also called the Center of the Universe. The use of the name first dates to the 1950s and 60s, when Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. used it to refer to NYC throughout his terms.

It's still somewhat used today, with adjectives often added, like the "Economic Center of the Universe" or the "Theatrical Center of the Universe." This moniker is also often connected to Times Square in Manhattan.

City of Dreams

Numerous places across the world have the nickname City of Dreams, from Mumbai to Vienna and Los Angeles. It's also a nickname sometimes related to New York City. The area historically welcomed immigrants who came with nothing to make it in America.

While not as famous for attracting talent as LA, many actors, musicians, and others searching for fame head to NYC to attempt to make their dreams come true.

Big Rotten Apple

Many know of New York's iconic Big Apple nickname, but few know of a variation on this that doesn't put the city in the best light. This name links to the downsides of the city, past and present, including corruption and crime. It also dates to the days when the mafia had a big influence on the city, further exacerbating crime and corruption.

An urban city with skyscrapers near a bridge over a body of water
New York City is home to a lot of high-rise buildings and famous skyscrapers

City of Skyscrapers

New York City, and Manhattan specifically, is home to an array of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, earning it the NYC slogan City of Skyscrapers. Notably, the city is home to the country's tallest skyscraper, One World Trade Center, and has the third largest concentration of skyscrapers in the world.

City of Towers

City of Towers is another variation of the City of Skyscrapers, including the many high-rise buildings across the five boroughs that don't qualify as a skyscraper. There are more than 7,000 high-rise buildings in NYC, with around 314 of them being skyscrapers.

Aerial shot of islets with parks and statues near a peninsula with skyscrapers
A little-known fact is that New York City has lots of small islands

City of Islands

Many people won't think of NYC as having islands, yet it does! Outside of the borough islands of Staten Island and Manhattan Island, there are smaller islands throughout the area, gaining NYC the colloquial nickname City of Islands.

These small NYC islands include Chimney Sweeps Islands, City Island, and High Island. The only inhabited island among the small islands is City Island.

City of Neon and Chrome

City of Neon and Chrome came about as a nickname for New York City after it was used in the musical Rent. The hit musical was set in Manhattan's East Village, and the song "Out Tonight" features the lyric "Can't sleep in the city of neon and chrome." As the show was set in NYC, it's assumed the "city of neon and chrome" is New York City.

Concrete stairs leading to an open area and a modern building with people in front
NYC is home to numerous orchestras, including the famous Philharmonic Orchestra

City of Orchestras

NYC is known for its various types of entertainment, including orchestras. In fact, New York City has approximately 29 orchestras, including the famous New York Philharmonic, gaining the city another nickname: City of Orchestras.

The City So Nice They Named It Twice

Having covered some lesser-known monikers, this is a nickname for New York City that many people will know. The slogan the City So Nice They Named It Twice comes from the song New York New York and the lyric "So Good They Named It Twice."

TerraceStudio/Shutterstock.com
A water fountain with statues of Christmas baubles near skyscrapers lit at night
There's always something to see in NYC, no matter what season, day, or time you visit

The City That Never Sleeps

The City That Never Sleeps is another of the world-renowned nicknames for New York City. It was made famous by the song "Theme from New York, New York," which was notably performed by Frank Sinatra in 1980. However, mentions of this nickname date to the start of the 1900s, and it's even been picked up as a moniker for other cities across the world.

Concrete Jungle

Concrete Jungle is a term that these days is given to almost any large city, but most people think of it as a New York City slogan. Its origins go back to the 1960 book The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris.

How it got associated specifically with NYC isn't really known, but being such a huge and important city, as well as a center for business and finance, probably played a part.

Signage saying "Times Sq-42 Station" near railings and the road
NYC's Times Square is one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world

Crossroads of the World

Crossroads of the World is sometimes used in reference to all of NYC but is most commonly a nickname for Manhattan's Times Square. The area is not only the intersection of multiple streets but also one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world.

That, along with being home to world-renowned shops and entertainment venues, make many think of this as the world's crossroads, where people convene before moving on to different places.

Cuisine Capital of the World

One of the benefits of visiting New York City is that you'll get to try excellent eateries, from pizza places to Michelin-starred restaurants. The city is also home to a multitude of the world's most famous eateries, earning it the title of Cuisine Capital of the World.

While some say Tokyo has gained this title because it's the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, many still think it belongs to NYC!

A tall skyscraper surrounded by other city buildings and skyscrapers
The Empire City nickname inspired the name of one of NYC's most iconic buildings

Empire City

Empire City is another of the globally known NYC nicknames. It relates to George Washington, who said of New York City, "Surely this is the seat of the empire!" The moniker was also used when naming one of New York's most famous landmarks, the Empire State Building.

Fashion City

Another industry that's huge in NYC is the fashion industry, leading New York City to gain the nickname Fashion City or The Fashion Capital of the World. Although some may say Paris is the Fashion Capital, it is generally used to refer to the 'Big Four' fashion cities, which are Paris, London, Milan, and New York City.

A low-angle close-up shot of a street sign saying "Broadway"
New York City has an array of entertainment options, like theaters on Broadway

Entertainment Capital of the World

A term like Entertainment Capital of the World is most often associated with Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, when referring to industries like the film industry. It has also been associated with Las Vegas in terms of personal activities and entertainment.

However, New York City combines those two elements, making some call it the Entertainment Capital of the World. New York has a vast entertainment industry, with TV shows, movies, and the like being filmed there. NYC also has Broadway, one of the biggest theater districts in the world, and there are an array of attractions and entertainment options for visitors to enjoy.

The Five Boroughs

While New York City is sometimes collectively referred to as the Five Boroughs, this moniker is more factual in that NYC is comprised of five boroughs. The five areas are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

These five came together to form NYC in 1898. As NYC is sometimes used purely in relation to Manhattan, using "The Five Boroughs" can clarify that you mean all of New York City.

Anne Czichos/Shutterstock.com
People walking in front of an old building with three signs on it
One of the New York City nicknames originated from the popular musical Hamilton

The Greatest City in the World

Due to its world-famous landmarks and attractions, prominence as a hub for numerous industries, and cultural diversity, many call NYC the Greatest City in the World. The phrase became even more popular when it was used in relation to Manhattan in the song "The Schuyler Sisters" in the musical Hamilton.

Headquarters of World Banking

Relating to the NYC name, the Capital of Finance, New York City is often also referred to as the Headquarters of World Banking. A large number of the world's biggest banks are headquartered in the city or have large offices there. All of these businesses are centered around the world's largest financial hub, Wall Street.

Hoover Tung/Shutterstock.com
A parade float designed like a turkey surrounded by people walking
Many world-renowned events are hosted in NYC, like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Host of the World

NYC is a great event host, gaining it another nickname, Host of the World. From Fashion Week to United Nations conferences and major sporting events, New York City puts on many of the world's most important events, plus smaller niche events. The city is also home to special US events, like the much-loved Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Hub of Transport

As NYC is such a bustling city with a large population and huge influx of visitors, it's not surprising it's often called the Hub of Transport. It's also home to one of the most famous stations in the world, Grand Central Station.

Along with Grand Central, the city is known for iconic transport methods, like its yellow taxi cabs and the New York City Subway, one of the largest subway systems in the world.

Furthermore, the city is near various airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in NYC, and Newark Liberty International Airport in nearby New Jersey. There's even a transportation museum in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum, covering the city's transport history.

A building facade with a sign saying "The New York Times"
Many news headquarters, whether it be print or broadcasting, can be found in NYC

Media City

As you can see from other nicknames, NYC is home to a lot of industries, and the media industry is another of them, hence the name Media City. The city is the base for national news stations, late-night shows, publishing houses, and numerous other media entities.

The most famous of these include The New York Times, CNN, and Penguin Group. New York City is also North America's biggest media market.

The Modern Gomorrah

One of the historical names associated with the city is the Modern Gomorrah. Gomorrah is a city in the bible that was destroyed for its evil acts.

NYC gained the unfortunate nickname of being a modern version of this due to the mafia and other criminal groups that were prevalent throughout the city. Most link the first use of this name to Reverend Thomas De Witt Talmage in 1875.

An aerial shot of a vast park with a lake surrounded by skyscrapers
NYC is also known as the Melting Pot because of its multicultural community

The Melting Pot

New York City is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and one of the names for NYC that highlights this is the Melting Pot. In fact, the borough of Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world!

As you explore the city, you'll recognize this diversity, hearing numerous languages being spoken and discovering shops and restaurants with offerings from a multitude of countries.

Money Town

Money Town is another reference to NYC's booming financial industry. It may also be used to refer to revenue brought in by the city.

For example, New York City is a large tourism hub, bringing in billions of dollars in tourism revenue annually. In 2022, the New York metropolitan area brought in a GMP (Gross Metropolitan Product) of US$2.1 trillion, which definitely earns NYC the title of Money Town!

A large green statue of a woman holding a torch on an island
Many A-list movies have been filmed around New York City's landmarks

The Movie-Making City

The Movie-Making City is another nickname that primarily goes to Los Angeles. However, that doesn't mean it's not also suitable for NYC. The city is a major filming destination, with a range of movies, from blockbusters to indie flicks, filmed in the city each year. On top of that, numerous films are set in New York City, even if they aren't filmed there.

The Nation's First City

While New York City was not literally the first city to be founded in the United States, it was one of the first large cities to be established. This is why it's sometimes called the Nation's First City. The city quickly became an important hub, especially for trading, and was chosen as the location for various major landmarks and governmental and business headquarters.

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock.com
A facade of a building with a sign saying "Le Bernardin" surrounded by plants
NYC is a culinary destination with a large number of Michelin-star restaurants

Restaurant City

Another of the NYC names relating to food culture is Restaurant City. New York City has an array of eateries, with approximately 23,650 food establishments across the five boroughs. You can also find tens of Michelin-starred restaurants here, with NYC consistently ranked in the top ten for global cities with the most Michelin stars.

The Seat of Empire

This nickname is just a word-for-word version of Empire City, relating to George Washington saying that New York City was the "seat of the empire." While this is literally what Washington said, these days, most people use the shortened Empire City nickname for NYC instead of the Seat of Empire.

Not only is NYC called the Seat of Empire and the Empire City, but the official nickname for the state of New York is the Empire State.

Birds flying over a body of water near an island full of skyscrapers
NYC is called Vacation City as it welcomes millions of tourists annually

Vacation City

Due to the array of world-famous attractions and landmarks in New York City, it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, leading to the name Vacation City. NYC welcomes around 65 million visitors annually, with tourism acting as one of the area's leading economic drivers.

World's Fair City

NYC has been a host for The World's Fair twice, allowing it to call itself the World's Fair City. Both events were held at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens. The first was in 1939, and the second was in 1964.

In Conclusion

New York City is a world-renowned destination with numerous attractions, a diverse culture, and an interesting history. These characteristics have resulted in the creation of numerous nicknames for NYC.

This list should have helped you learn more about all the most well-known monikers for NYC, as well as the history behind them, allowing you to grow your knowledge of this fascinating part of the United States.

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell EDITOR Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.


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