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Boston Slang

Boston slang

Boston slang consists of words and phrases of slang originating from Boston. Though most often used in Boston, the slang can also be heard in other cities of Massachusetts or even other New England states, though not always as frequently. Some terms are less commonly heard outside of the Boston area than others; some are not used at all outside of Boston.


A
ABI - American Born Irish; someone of Irish descent born in the United States who enthusiastically admires Ireland and Irish culture.
alls - common substitute for "all that." ("Alls I know," "alls I want," etc.)
B
bagged - arrested; "He got bagged for a DUI."; (Driving Under the Influence)
...as/like balls - used to exaggerate a statement, often about the weather; can be used both positively and negatively ("The Red Sox played like balls today" or "It's warm as balls in here")
bang - to make a left turn (often, "bang a left"; also used often as "bang a U-ie" - make a U turn); sometimes used interchangeably with hang
barney - a Harvard student or graduate (used by working class residents of Somerville), apparently in reference to trolley barns near the university. The term is rarely used today; now yuppie is used as a desciption of almost all outsiders, including college students, professors and men wearing expensive suits.
barrel - trash can
The Basement - Filene's Basement, a department store in Downtown Crossing
bazo - a drunkard; used mostly in South Boston (rare)
Beacon Hill - the Massachusetts government, particularly the State legislature
Beantown - Boston (seldom used by Bostonians)
The 'Berry (or the 'Burry) - Roxbury
Big Dig - the Central Artery Tunnel Project
The Bob Loboat - The Boston Harbor Island Ferry that docks in Rowes Wharf
bobos - Cheap no-name sneakers.
BoSox - See Sox (Seldom used within New England, national slang to differentiate from the ChiSox, or White Sox of Chicago)
Brahmin - Boston Brahmin
breakdown lane - right margin or shoulder on highways used for broken down vehicles. Cars can drive in the breakdown lane at certain hours on some Massachusetts highways.
Da Broons - Reference to the Boston Bruins, also often called The B's. The Bruins AHL affilate from Providence are referred to as the Baby B's.
bubbler [pron. bubblah] - water fountain
bulkhead - outdoor entrance to the basement
C
calm your liver - chill out (uncommon)
The Cape - Cape Cod
Children's - Children's Hospital Boston
chowdah [chowder] - New England clam chowder, or occasionally fish chowder. Never, never, the Manhattan variety of clam chowder.
chowderhead (sometimes chowdahead) - stupid person
Chuck Rivah - the Charles River
cleanser - dry cleaner; used more often in the names of dry cleaning shops than in actual speech
Comm Ave - Commonwealth Avenue
The Combat Zone - the red light district of Boston that used to exist between Downtown Crossing and Chinatown
The Common - Boston Common
Cow Hampshire - derogatory term for New Hampshire
cruiser [pron. crew-zah] - a police car
D
decked - adj., dressed nicely ("decked out"); past tense verb, punched
directional - noun., turn signal
Dot - Dorchester, MA.
Dot Ave - Dorchester Avenue
down cellar (pronounced "down sellah") - refers to a basement
Down East - A section of the Maine coast that is actually north of Boston
d-tech - An undercover police car
dust - drug most commonly used in the 80's, rare nowadays.
E
Eastie - East Boston.
elastic - rubber band
F
FBI - Foreign Born Irish; someone born in Ireland; an Irish immigrant
the flat of the Hill - the portion of Beacon Hill between Charles Street and Storrow Drive
frappe [pron. frap] - a milkshake; the term milkshake has a separate use
G
The Gahden - a reference to the Boston Garden or the TD Banknorth Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins
greenie - an urban empty lot overgrown with weeds.
grinder [pron. "grind-ah"] - A submarine sandwich. Some insist that a grinder is toasted, while a sub is not.
The Gator - Mike Greenwell, former Left Fielder for the Red Sox who resides in Southwest Florida
H
hang - to make a right turn (often, "hang a right"); sometimes used interchangeably with bang
Hell - MIT, particularly to its students
hibo[pron. "high-bow"] - the Ancient Order of Hibernians; a member of the AOH; its meeting hall
the Hill - Beacon Hill
Hoobanger - (pronounced who-banga) A large party.
Hoodsie (1) - A small cup of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream from the HP Hood Company. Eaten with a thin wooden spoon that comes with the Hoodsie.
hoodsie (2) - In neighborhoods such as South Boston and Dorchester it refers to a precocious minor female who tries to appear older or wants to date older teenage boys or young men. The term is considered derogatory: "He'll get bagged if he keeps dating that hoodsie." Popular knowledge tells that the expression comes from the idea that the small cup a Hoodsie ice cream treat comes in is the same size as the bra cup of a hoodsie.
hook - used interchaneably with hang; ("hook a right")
hi hosey - to claim ownership of something; ("Hi hosey the front seat.")
The Hub - Boston; shortened from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.'s phrase The Hub of the Solar System (often misremembered as Universe) (seldom used in conversation, but seen often in writing and advertisements, e.g. in the Boston Globe)
I
the Irish Riviera - the South Shore coastal suburbs to the southeast of Boston such as Hingham and Weymouth
J
The Jetties - refers to Jetties Beach in Nantucket
JP - Jamaica Plain
Jew Hill Ave - derogatory term used for Blue Hill Ave in Mattapan. Comes from a time when Mattapan was a mostly Jewish neighborhood.
L
lace curtain Irish - a person of Irish descent who is moving up the social ladder; ("After they moved to the Point, they became lace curtain Irish.")
the Law School - Harvard Law School
the Leather District - the neighborhood surrounding South Street in Boston
Let's go, Southie, let's go!" - Rallying cry for South Boston High School, used by anti-integration activists during the Boston busing crisis
"Light dawns on Marblehead" - used when a dense person finally realizes something. Also any variation such as, Dawn breaks on Marblehead.
"like a bastard" - an excess of something ("It's raining like a bastard outside.")
the Lower End - that part of South Boston around the Broadway MBTA station
M
Maine-iac - derogatory term for Maine driver or resident, on par with Masshole
Man's Greatest Hospital - Massachusetts General Hospital (alternatively, the medical-industrial complex)
Mass Ave - Massachusetts Avenue
Massholes - derogatory term for residents of Massachusetts, especially of Boston drivers (popular in New Hampshire).
Me'fah or Med'fah - Medford, Massachusetts; an exaggerated pronunciation of the way the city's name is supposed to sound when it's pronounced by its residents; even if no one in Medford pronounces it that way, people living in Greater Boston will refer to the city by that name. Residents generally pronounce it "Med'fid".
milkshake - milk mixed with flavored syrup; differs from frappe by not including ice cream
The Mother Church - First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston
N
"No suh!" [No sir, compare "no sirree"] - "No way!". The appropriate response is "Ya huh!"
O
The Orange Dinosaur - big orange dinosaur on Rt. 1 Saugus
P
packie (also package store) - liquor store
Pats - the New England Patriots
the People's Republic - Cambridge (alternatively, seven square miles surrounded by reality)
The Pike - the Massachusetts Turnpike, also the Mass Pike
pissa (1) - cool, good: "You hit the Lottery? That's pissa man."; less commonly it can be used instead of pissed to mean drunk: "I had ten beers last night. I was wicked pissa!"
pissa! (2) - used as an exclamation when something goes wrong: "Oh pissa!", he shouted as his car keys fell down the storm drain.
the Point - the City Point area of South Boston
pol(s) - politician(s), political operative,
Portugie - derogatory term for someone of Portuguese ancestry or origin
Provi - nickname for Providence, Rhode Island
P-town - Provincetown, Massachusetts
R
Red Sox Nation - the collective group of Sox fans that span the US and beyond. Red Sox Nation is seen in the immense crowds of Sox fans that gather even at visiting parks.
re-re- an idiot ("He's a wicked re-re."). A derogatory variation on "retarded". Most people from Mass generally say "retahded" more often that "re-re".
Rhodie - someone who is from Rhode Island
The River - the Charles River
Ros, Rozzie - Roslindale, MA
Rox - Roxbury, MA
S
Salt and Pepper Bridge - Longfellow Bridge
Severe - A term used when refering to the town of Revere.
sketchy - A term used, most often by teenagers, referring to something strange or out of place (such as a suspicious person).
skally - a driving cap or an ivy cap that has snap button front.
skidder - referring to someone who bums (borrows) money from friends. Pronounced "skiddah".
Slumerville - A derogatory term for Somerville, MA, referring to its working-class population. Now rarely used due to gentrification.
Smells 'n' Bells - The Church of the Advent, an Anglo-Catholic parish on Beacon Hill noted for its high church liturgy
smoot - a unit of measurement used to mark the length of the Harvard Bridge. Also used as a point of reference by MIT students; ("Are you past the 182 (smoot mark) yet?" "Nah, we're still in Hell.")
SoBro - South Brookline
So don't I - pleonasm, used to agree with a statement; a replacement for "me too"; ("I like the Red Sox." "So don't I.")
Southie - South Boston; also used for residents of the area
spa - neighborhood shop that sells groceries, soda fountain drinks, sandwiches (or other prepared food) and miscellaneous notions. Spas of this sort include the Hillside Spa Cardoza Brothers, on Hancock Street, or the Brookline Spa, in Brookline, MA.
spuckie - submarine sandwich, or the bread it was made with. Rarely used anymore. Replaced by "sub".
SoWa - the southern portion of Washington Street in Boston. A term created by the real estate industry and not used in common speech.
Sox (also The Sox) - the Boston Red Sox; pronounced "socks" or "So-AX".
The Square - Harvard Square
statie - Massachusetts state trooper, or police officer
superette - grocery store that is considerably smaller than a supermarket (seen on signage, but rarely used in conversation)
T
The T - the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; also used for services run by the MBTA, particularly the Subway. Taken from the MBTA's logo, a block-letter T within a circle.
Taxachusetts - derogatory political state title and comparative reference to the limited taxation of neighboring New Hampshire
The Teddy or The Ted - The Ted Williams Tunnel
time - A retirement or going away party; ("Did you hear Sully's retiring?" "Yeah, they're having a time for him down Florian Hall.") Also refers to political fundraisers.
The Tip - The Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel
tonic - soft drink (like "spuckie", an older term that has gradually been replaced); others insist it refers exclusively to seltzer water.
tonic, boss o - a 2 liter bottle of soda or soft drink
Tory Row - historic neighborhood of Cambridge, home to prominent British sympathizers before the American Revolution
townie - In the strictest sense, a resident of Charlestown, Massachusetts; or more broadly someone from Somerville or South Boston or the other Irish-Catholic enclaves of Boston and surrounding areas. Also used as an adjective for the accent of those areas; or to describe a person who shares many characteristics with the residents of those areas. Occasionally, a person who was born/lived their life/died in the same town, village or 'burb, and whose family has lived in the town for many generations. A resident of a college town who is not affiliated with the college (more used by non-local college students than by Boston area residents).
triple decker - a three-story, three-family house, also called a "three decker".
Triple Eagle - Someone who has graduated from Boston College High School, Boston College, and Boston College Law School. Taken from the fact that all three schools use the eagle as a mascot.
U
"[Come] up the house"/"[Go] down the beach" - frequently the "to" is omitted - "Marie went the hospital".
Upper Mass Ave - the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue that runs north from Harvard Square toward the town of Arlington
V
The Ville - Slang term used for the city of Somerville.
Villen - a resident of Somerville
The Vineyard - Martha's Vineyard
W
Westie - West Roxbury
whip - to throw; "I whipped the ball at his head."
whoopie pie - a pastry first sold commercially at the Berwick Cake Factory in Dudley Square, Roxbury
wicked - very; or occasionally cool. Used indiscriminately, can modify anything (e.g.: "Wicked good." "Wicked bad." "Wicked boring.", etc.). Almost always used as an adverb, rather than an adjective; some Bostonians feel it is grammatically improper not to put an adjective or verb after "wicked".
wicked pissa - awesome, very cool
Y
Yaz - Carl Yastrzemski, long time left fielder for the Red Sox. Also "Big Yaz Bread" was a loaf of bread similar to Wonder Bread sold locally after the Red Sox' pennant winning season of 1967.
you's guys - Phrase meaning "all of you" or "you all"