- The Big Apple
- The City That Never Sleeps
- The Empire City
- The City So Nice They Named It Twice
- The Melting Pot
- The Center of the Universe
- The Capital of the World
- The Five Boroughs
The term “Big Apple” is the most famous of NYC nicknames, and has been associated with New York City since the 1920s. During horse races in and around the city, the winning horse would get the biggest apple. People started using it to talk about the horse racing industry in NYC, then NYC itself. Even jazz musicians wrote songs about the “Big Apple” – the biggest, best, and brightest city.
Then, in 1971, it was made official with an ad campaign aimed at enticing tourists. The campaign showcased NYC as a big, cheery, bright red apple – basically, the best city on earth. And ever since, “The Big Apple” has been New York City’s most recognizable nickname.
Made popular in the 1970s and 80s from the song and movie “New York, New York,” this nickname is thought to have been used for NYC as early as the 1880s. In 1898, in his book Out of Mulberry Street: Stories of Tenement Life in New York City, Jacob Riis referred to a NYC neighborhood, stating, “The Bowery never sleeps.”
In early 1900s newspaper articles, “The City That Never Sleeps” was used to describe NYC due to its evening mail delivery and its electric and gas lighting. These days, it’s a standard reference for the city, embodying the energetic and fast-paced atmosphere.
The Empire City is another nickname for NYC. In December 1784, George Washington called New York State “the Seat of the Empire,” referring to the dominance and influence of the great empires of ancient civilizations. New York City was dubbed the “Empire City” due to its status as a major economic, cultural, and political hub within the “Empire State.”
Another one of the most famous NYC nicknames out there is "The City So Nice They Named It Twice". This playful nickname captures the city’s allure and unique status of both the city and state having the same name. The first known instance of this phrase being used to describe NYC is a 1959 recording of the jazz song “Manhattan,” which begins with a spoken word monologue by jazz lyricist and singer Jon Hendricks, in which he states, “New York, New York – a city so nice, they had to name it twice.”
In a travel narrative written in 1905, Henry James described New York City as a “fusion, as of elements in solution in a vast hot pot.” In the 1908 play “The Melting Pot,” a Russian immigrant travels to America with hopes of all ethnicities “melting away.” The term “melting pot” came to describe things joining or melting together, generally different cultures and ethnicities.
NYC has been deemed “The Melting Pot” because people from all over the world come to live and work in the massive, bustling city, bringing with them their languages, traditions, and cuisines that blend to create a vibrant tapestry of diversity, making NYC a “melting pot” of international influences.
In 1807 Washington Irving used “Gotham” as a nickname for NYC as a bit of a joke, inspired by an old folk story called “The Wise Men of Gotham.” In the story, the people of Gotham wanted to avoid the king building a road through their village, so they pretended to be fools, and the king decided to build the road elsewhere to steer clear of the foolish men of Gotham, who were quite wise.
New Yorkers have seemed to embrace this playful nickname. And in 1940, “Gotham City” was introduced in the Batman comics, making it an even more fun moniker.
The term “metropolis” is often used to refer to a major city that serves as a hub for commerce, culture, and industry. Due to NYC being a large, bustling, and highly developed urban center, it is certainly worthy of a nickname such as “Metropolis”.
The name is also famously associated with the Superman comics, first mentioned in 1939 and inspired by the 1927 film Metropolis. Comic book writer Frank Miller said, “Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham City is New York at night.”
Repeatedly used by New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. throughout his terms from 1954 to 1965, this adage is frequently applied to NYC, sometimes referring to Times Square specifically. It is often used with identifying terms like “Theatrical Center of the Universe” or “Economic Center of the Universe.”
Taking a cue from Rome’s title of Caput Mundi or “Head of the World,” New York City earned the moniker “The Capital of the World” in E.B. White’s 1948 essay, Here is New York.
Being a hub of cultural diversity, media influence, finance, arts, fashion, food, and technology, the nickname seems fitting. As with other NYC nicknames, it is sometimes used with added verbiage such as the “Food Capital of the World” or “Gay Capital of the World.”
Calling NYC the “Five Boroughs” is simply referring to the five counties, known as boroughs, that make up the city: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. The term “The Five Boroughs” is an easy way to refer to all of NYC and its unique setup.
No matter what it’s called, New York City is one-of-a-kind. It’s bustling, alive with people working, sightseeing, vacationing, and having fun. From world-renowned Broadway shows to hundreds of tourist attractions, endless food and fashion, and more, NYC is undoubtedly one of the greatest places on earth.