Graffiti Slang: 45 Terms Every New Writer Needs To Know

two graffiti artists painting colourful pieces
Written by Richard September

Learn the lingo with these 45 terms every new graffiti writer needs to know.

Since the birth of modern-day graffiti back in 1960s New York, graffiti writers have put brand new meanings to words as a way of communicating graffiti culture.

After all, what is a culture without a shared language that everyone involved understands?

So whether you’re just starting out with graffiti or simply interested in learning the lingo, here’s a list of 45 graffiti slang terms you need to know.

1. Active

A graffiti writer who is actively painting.

2. All city

A writer whose tags, throw-ups and pieces can be found everywhere.

3. Bite

To copy another writer’s letter structures, characters or graffiti style.

4. Blackbook

A sketchbook or marker pad containing a graffiti writer’s sketches.

5. Bomb/Bombing

To completely cover something or somewhere in graffiti.

6. Buff

To chemically clean graffiti from a surface.

7. Bumpkin

A writer from outside of a major city.

8. Burn

To paint very well with maximum style.

9. Burner

An incredibly well painted piece.

10. Cap

Nozzles that attach to the top of spray cans. For example, skinny and fat caps.

11. Catch a tag

Tagging a name somewhere.

12. Crew

A collective of graffiti writers who paint together.

13. Dog/Line out

To put a line through or go over another writer or crew’s work.

14. Diss

To disrespect or insult another graffiti writer.

15. Dub

A quick outline of a writer’s name, traditionally with chrome and black colours. A term used mostly in London.

16. End to end

A piece covering the entire length of a train carriage.

17. Fill-in

The inside colour of a piece, throwup or dub.

18. Hall of fame

A legal or chill graffiti spot that’s painted frequently. Usually by graffiti legends.

19. Hot

A risky spot which is usually watched by the police or has a high chance of police being called.

20. Inactive

A writer who has temporarily stopped painting.

21. King

A legendary or prolific writer.

22. Mission

A high-stakes painting trip.

23. New school

A newer generation of graffiti writers.

24. Old school

An older generation of graffiti writers.

25. Outline/Hollow

A throw-up or piece painted with only the outline and no fill-in.

26. Piece

A graffiti painting, short for masterpiece. Usually painted with many colours in a complex, detailed style.

27. Plot

A spot that a graffiti writer is planning (or plotting) to paint.

28. Rack

To steal. Can apply to anything, but usually means stealing spray paint.

29. Safe

A spot which isn’t very dangerous or can be painted without much risk.

30. Scar/Ghost

Graffiti that is still faintly visible after someone has cleaned it.

31. Shout out/Hit up

To put another graffiti writer’s name up.

33. Snitch

A writer’s name or signature.

34. Tag

A writer’s name or signature.

35. Tagging

Actively writing a name or signature.

36. Third rail

The dangerous rail that carries electricity on a train track.

37. Throwup

A quick bubble-style outline of a writer’s name.

38. Top to bottom

A piece reaching from the top of a train carriage to the bottom.

39. Toy

A new graffiti writer who lacks style and/or knowledge.

40. Up

A prolific writer who can be found everywhere.

41. Whole car

A piece covering the entire side of a train carriage.

42. Wildstyle

A complex graffiti style that uses stylised, hard to read letters.

43. Window down

A piece painted below the windows of a train carriage.

44. Writer

Someone who writes graffiti.

45. Yard

A depot where trains are held overnight.

Just getting started with graffiti? Take a look at 10 Essential Graffiti Supplies Every Beginner Needs.

About the author

Richard September

Growing up in London, I've always been fascinated by the graffiti that covers the cityscape. From seeing it around where I lived to reading it on the train lines, I was hooked straight away. For over 15 years, I've been painting graffiti and immersing myself in the culture. I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2019 with a BA in Sociology and Media Studies. My final year research project, entitled "Vigilant Vandalism or Mindless Mischief: A Narrative Analysis of Graffiti Writers in London & Brighton", exposed me to the lives of graffiti writers in the field and better shaped my understanding of the culture. I created Graff Storm in 2021 with the mission to help new artists learn more about graffiti culture, find the right tools and avoid toy status.

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