2. The NYPD Nickname “New York’s Finest” Dates Back to the 1870s

Photo: Michael Appleton/NYC Mayoral Photography Office

Barry Popik is an etymologist and self-proclaimed expert on the origins of well-known terms including “The Big Apple,” “The Windy City” and ” jazz.” On his website, Popik says that the NYPD nickname “New York’s Finest” has several possible origins. One explanation is that the nickname came from the NYPD’s first Superintendent, George W. Matsell, who said, “I intend, sir, to make of this the finest police force in the world.” The term “finest” has been used to refer to the police department over the years and it is most likely the oldest nickname for any New York City agency. Other nicknames include “New York’s Bravest” for the New York Fire Department and “New York’s Strongest” for the New York Department of Sanitation.