Why is New York City known as “the Big Apple” and “Gotham”?

New York City goes by many names, such as the “City that Never Sleeps” and the less humble “Center of the Universe.” But the Big Apple is the most kenspeckled.

There are many rumors about the history of the nickname. Did the city used to be filled with apple orchards? Does the name originate with a brothel madam named Eve?

Actually, the widespread use of the nickname began in the 1970s as part of an official tourism campaign.

Before that, John Joseph Fitz Gerald, a turf racing writer for the New York Morning Telegraph in the 1920s, used the name in his column. While in New Orleans, he heard stable hands refer to New York as “the big apple that all horsemen aspired to race at.”

Soon writers began using the term to refer to New York in other contexts. Soon, a popular song and dance in the 1930s used the expression.

The corner of West 54th Street and Broadway, where Fitz Gerald lived, was officially designated “Big Apple Corner.”

The most populous city in the U.S. also goes by the name Gotham, which was first used by Washington Irving in an 1807 issue of his literary magazine about the legends of an English village named Gotham.

On the topic of Washington Irving and the island of Manhattan, what does the ”knicks” in the New York Knicks stand for? It’s a surprise that has absolutely nothing to do with basketball. Click here for the answer.


  1. Mike -  March 21, 2012 - 9:22 pm

    Off topic, but have to say … many of your “hot word” blog post headlines (including the one for this blog) include the question mark (?) inside quoted material. Question marks and exclamation points go outside quoted material (unless they apply to the quoted material). For example, the headline at top means people call New York City, the Gotham? city. Conversely, periods and commas always go inside quoted material. Thank you! Great Web site!

    By the way, I would love to work for Dictionary.com as a copy editor and/or proofreader! Please feel free to contact me (you should have my e-mail address)! Thank you!

  2. Rebecca -  November 26, 2011 - 3:59 pm

    In Spanish, a large city block is called a Manzana. Manhattan is a big square island. Hence, the Big Apple. It works for me. Better than jazz and racing.

  3. christian -  June 27, 2011 - 8:44 am

    i have never beeen to new york but i think its cool

  4. MARK -  June 17, 2011 - 6:46 am

    @ Mark V no “gotham” and new york city are the same. the nickname was used for manhattan long before the comics came out with gotham as a city. like the wayne empire was talking about the vanderbuilts who owned the only operating rail line in manhattan, and ……. blah blah, all the spin offs that came after, but gotham was talking about new york city, …. and to the one who said detroit is called gotham, good luck with that, new york was nicknamed gotham long before people used it in detroit.

  5. Curly -  November 21, 2010 - 7:58 am

    Oh, I get it! They’re trackbacks.

    Please forgive my idiocy.

  6. NuttierThanSquirrelPoo -  November 3, 2010 - 3:50 pm

    New York doesn’t deserve nay nicknames except “Nude Orc” because that’s what people there basically look like.

  7. Nelson -  November 3, 2010 - 2:56 pm

    Very Interesting. I’m a ESL Student I’m learning a lot.

  8. camcam -  September 21, 2010 - 9:13 am

    must be one biiiig apple…

  9. Curly Hair -  September 15, 2010 - 8:46 pm


    “Every other posting has simply appeared or not”? What’s that supposed to mean? They just appear on their own? I’m still confused….

  10. mark V -  September 14, 2010 - 3:56 pm

    Batmans always blurred that line, being a ‘Chaotic Good’ aligned character though.

  11. junkfood lover -  September 14, 2010 - 3:12 am

    Spiderman is more coloful than Batman of Christopher Nolan in which darkness dominates the space. I guess nowdays the hero movies cannot divide the good from the evil as crystal clear as it used to be. Huh, are’nt we living the time of responsibility with moral pricks.

  12. Saf -  September 13, 2010 - 2:00 pm

    @Curly Hair

    I’ve never visited their website (mayopia.com), but I’m pretty sure that they’re taking the subject matter from the Hot Word Blog and spinning it into poetry. The elipses are mostly likely because to denote that you are reading an excerpt. At least that’s always been my assumption.


  13. Mark V -  September 13, 2010 - 7:56 am

    Im quite certain “Gotham” and “New york” are entirly different cities, otherwise Batman and Spiderman would cross paths more.

  14. AMY-LOU -  September 13, 2010 - 5:36 am

    Adam you comment “When I was incited to have a bite on a apple in my dream, the apple has became a demanding, nagging, and lovely wife of the middle life crisis who I never had in my life since I have been a bachelor.” I may not be right but i think your dream ment you were longing for a wife, but you are scared to leave the life of a bachelor behind and get married.

  15. MANHATTAN | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 12, 2010 - 6:46 am

    [...] York City is much bigger than “Manhattan” — We look at the Island as the core and the other BOROUGHS as the skin. — The problem [...]

  16. Fred -  September 12, 2010 - 6:18 am

    Dear Curly Hair, C/O THW /MANHADTAN

    This is the first comment I’ve ever posted. Every other posting has simply appeared or not: Edited and without subaudition links.

  17. Lauryn -  September 11, 2010 - 8:21 pm

    @ Adam- What the hell are you talking about? That’s the worst sentence I’ve ever read. It’s funny yet sad because I think you really had something to say but, you jacked it up. :-(

  18. Curly Hair -  September 11, 2010 - 7:39 pm

    Attention BLOGCHI@mayopia.com!

    Would you please tell me exactly why all your comments are impossible to understand, seeing as they contain random phrases (that pertain to the subject matter, yes, but nevertheless don’t seem to make much sense) interspersed with ellipses? The fact that you keep commenting seems to say that you have points you would like to get across, but as far as I can tell, you’re not accomplishing that. Please explain to me what you mean by all your strange-looking comments.

  19. Terry -  September 11, 2010 - 7:30 pm

    I guess horses like apples……

  20. Adam -  September 11, 2010 - 6:50 pm

    When I was incited to have a bite on a apple in my dream, the apple has became a demanding, nagging, and lovely wife of the middle life crisis who I never had in my life since I have been a bachelor.

  21. suberbian of Tokyo -  September 11, 2010 - 6:42 pm

    When I was sightseeing in N.Y. holding a map in my hand, I asked strangers in the street pointing my destination in the map, I only found that they were also visitors to the Big Apple!

    What would be the probability to hit tourists three times in a row?

    I should have got about the city more often when I was there, but I even have not visited new establishements and sightseeing spots back here.

  22. Janice-MarieSmith -  September 11, 2010 - 5:15 pm

    I’ve always heard ROTTEN APPLE. Gotham is the nickname for Detroit.

  23. seymour -  September 11, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    erdos – horses love munchin on apples – makes em happy ‘n run faster

  24. Tiger -  September 11, 2010 - 12:14 pm

    John Joseph Fitz Gerald, any relation to F. Scott Fitzgerald?

  25. vs pan -  September 11, 2010 - 11:23 am

    I am from china.This is a great way to learn Englis and knowledge.I wish I can learn some new vocabulary and interesting story everyday.


    VS Pan

  26. erdos -  September 11, 2010 - 8:57 am

    What is the relationship between apples and horse racing?

  27. Tiger -  September 11, 2010 - 8:05 am

    John Joseph Fitz Gerald, any relation to F. Scott Fitzgerald?

    When life gives you lemons make grape juice and leave the world to wonder how the heck you did it…

  28. Shah Danyal -  September 11, 2010 - 7:23 am

    It is interesting that in English folk stories, people from Gotham a part of Nottingham, were thought to be simple and stupid.

  29. Kim -  September 11, 2010 - 7:04 am

    Buenos Aires is also referred to as the Big Apple

  30. VAL STEFFAN -  September 11, 2010 - 2:47 am

    I thought the great sax player Lester Young coined the phrase “Big


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