Chicago Slang Terms Everyone From the Windy City Knows

Chicago slang terms are actually pretty easy to learn. It’s informed by housing, transportation, and other random things. If you’re a recent transplant and this all sounds forgein, don’t worry. Our shortened words will easily wiggle their way into your vocab once you live here a while. Check out these 7 terms you know should know to sound like a local. 


If you hear someone say, “I’m stopping at Jewels,” there’s a good chance they’re dropping by Jewel Osco, a well-known chain grocery store in Chicago. Locals tend to drop the “Osco” and add an S. Less syllables, less work.   

Garden apartment

So…is there a lovely garden included with the apartment? Lots of flowers or something? Nah. A garden apartment is just a fancy word used by realtors to describe a basement unit, or partially below street level. 

The El

Nope, we’re not talking about the letter. The El is actually our train system that runs throughout the city above the streets from downtown all the way to O’Hare. It’s popular with city folk and considered one of the most reliable transit systems in the US. 

Chicago handshake

Pro-tip: If someone offers you a “Chicago handshake” they don’t want to shake your hand. They’re likely offering you a concoction of Old Style beer and a shot of Malört. Politely toss it back and consider yourself a true local. 


Nope, it’s not the mind melting drug you’re thinking of. LSD is actually short for Lake Shore Drive. So if you’re in a neighborhood Facebook Group and see someone ask, “Did anyone catch the fireworks on LSD last night?!” you can assume they’re not party animals. 


This house type, along with their bigger cousins the four-flat and six-flat, make up more than 30% of our Chicago’s housing stock. It’s a familiar building: two stories with an apartment on each floor, bay windows greeting the street, and a facade of greystone or brick. Most date back to 1900 and 1920. 

The Dan Ryan, The Eisenhower, The Kennedy

While these are names of famous historical figures, they’re also popular ways to describe a few of the interstates that run through Chicago. The more you know! 

Chicago Slang Terms Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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