The Big Apple

Nickname for New York, USA.

There is no definitive source for this. As sooften, there are several theories. One is that it derives from thetranslation by jazz musicians of the Manzana area as ‘apple orchard’.Another explanation has it that jazz musician’s slang for engagementwas ‘apple’ and that a date in New York was the ‘big apple’. The phrasewas certainly current in jazz music circles in the 1930s.

Probably the strongest contender is that itwas coined in the horse racing community in the southern USA. John J.Fitz Gerald was a horse-racing writer for the New York MorningTelegraph in the 1920s. He reports hearing the phrase used by stablelads while on a visit to New Orleans in 1920, although there’s nothingin that report to link the phrase to New York.

Fitz Gerald did later use the phrase withreference to New York in his ‘Around the Big Apple’, piece for theTelegraph on February 18, 1924, and that is the earliest citation wecan find of it in print:

“The Big Apple. The dream ofevery lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of allhorsemen. There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.”

So, by his own account, Fitz Gerald didn’tcoin the phrase, but it’s likely that he set it on its course to becomepart of the language.