What Does The Big Apple Mean?

Big Apple Meaning

Definition: New York City

The Big Apple colloquially refers to New York City. It is a nickname that can be used interchangeably with the official city name itself.

For example,

  • I’m going to New York City tomorrow.
  • I’m going to the Big Apple tomorrow.

Both of these sentences indicate the same idea.

Origin of the Big Apple

big apple name originThere are a few theories on the origin of the term Big Apple, but the most likely is that a “big apple” was widely recognized as the best among the typical money prizes known as “the apple” in horse racing. Because of this, both jockeys and owners started referring to all competitions in New York City as “the Big Apple,” as it was there that the biggest prizes were given out.

In 1921, John J. Fitz Gerald wrote about the Big Apple in a number of New York Morning Telegraph articles, including the following,

  • P. Smith, with Tippity Witchet and others of the L.T. Bauer string, is scheduled to start for “the big apple” tomorrow after a most prosperous Spring campaign at Bowie and Havre de Grace.

Later, in 1924, he repeated the phrase with more emphasis on its representation of the city:

  • The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.

In 1971, the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau officially adopted the phrase in its attempt to encourage tourism and rehabilitate the city’s image.

Examples of the Big Apple

meaning of the big appleIn the modern day, people use the term Big Apple in casual references to the city.

  • Be sure to see Central Park on your next visit to the Big Apple.

It is a fun and creative way to talk about the city, and often expresses affection:

  • We can’t wait to visit the Big Apple again; we had such a good time there.

Here is an example dialogue between two friends discussing an upcoming road trip.

Bret: Tomas and I are going on a road trip this summer. You should come with us!

Josh: Really? Where are you going?

Bret: We are driving the entire East Coast. We want to start in New Hampshire, go to Boston, visit Connecticut, Rhode Island, and go down from there.

Josh. Are you going to New York City?

Bret: I can’t believe I left that out! We want to spend at least two days in the Big Apple.

More Examples

  • President-elect Donald Trump has dubbed one of his several inaugural parties the “Big Apple Ball”—a New York-scented soirée that will feature cut-outs of city landmarks.” –New York Daily News
  • Now “Hamilton” comes to Chicago, opening in the Loop on Sept. 27, and we look forward to the play casting the same spell on the Windy City that it did on the Big Apple. –Chicago Sun-Times


The Big Apple is a slang way to say New York City.