Albuquerque Slang

by Chris J. Ortiz, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 21st 2010 07:49 PM


Albuquerque Slang

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From "Christmas" to "Duke City," the residents of Albuquerque have a local language all of their own. Read on for a list of the top 10 Albuquerque slang terms and slang phrases.

1. Duke City

When you're in Albuquerque, don't be surprised if you rarely hear people refer to the city as that. Residents have a lot of different names for this city. The most popular is Duke City, which refers to Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, viceroy of New Spain during the 17th century. Don Francisco was also known as the Duke of Alburquerque (that's not a typo - the first "r" was dropped from the city's name somewhere along the line). The city was also the longtime home of The Dukes, a minor league baseball team.

2. The Burque and ABQ

As with most cities with more than two syllables (San Francisco - San Fran, Philadelphia - Philly), people here have shortened the name to Burque and ABQ. There was a failed attempted by Martin Chavez to rebrand the city "The Q," but that effort was mostly ignored and people kept referring to the city as Burque and ABQ. Plus, both are easier to spell and say than Al-bu-quer-que.

3. Christmas

Yes, you can have Christmas year round in Albuquerque, despite being in the middle of the desert. "Christmas" in Albuquerque local lingo does not refer to snow, pine trees or red and green lights; it refers to red and green chili. The only thing Albuquerqueans like more than their famous red and green chili is not having to pick between the two. When ordering a dish and asked if they would like red or green chili, residents will just say, "make mine Christmas."

4. Luminaria

Speaking of Christmas trees, residents in the Land of Enchantment aren't too enchanted by twinkling lights. When it comes to Christmas decorations, those in the Duke City actually prefer "luminarias". Luminaria is the Albuquerque slang term for a brown paper bag filled with sand with a candle inside. Around Christmas time, homes, businesses, sidewalks and rooftops are lined with luminarias.

5. "Across the river"

Running through the middle of Albuquerque is the Rio Grande, dividing the city into east and west. The city first developed on the east side, with new developments built "across the river" on the city's west side. When deciphering directions to the Cottonwood Mall or to downtown, remember that in Albuquerque lingo "across the river" means crossing the Rio Grande.

6. Isotopes

Technically, an isotope is an atom that has an unnatural number of neutrons. In Albuquerque slang, it's the city's beloved minor league baseball team. The Isotopes baseball team and their recently renovated stadium are also one of the city's claims to fame. The name is a reference to a "Simpsons" episode where the fictitious Springfield Isotopes left town to become the Albuquerque Isotopes. When it came to naming the city's new minor league baseball team, the city decided to make fantasy reality and named the team the Albuquerque Isotopes.

7. Tamalewood

In the past few years, Albuquerque has become Hollywood's second home, with dozens of high-profile movies and television shows being shot in and near town. With two movie studios, movies like Transformers, Indiana Jones, Terminator Salvation, and shows like In Plain Sight and Breaking Bad were filmed in town, causing locals to rename Albuquerque "Tamalewood" in the local lingo.

8. Big I and Spaghetti Bowl

Albuquerque is home to two major interstate highways: the I-25, which runs north to south, band the I-40, which runs east to west. Albuquerque is where the two meet. Close to the heart of the city is the intersection of the two highways - in Albuquerque lingo it's called the Big I. The Big I handles more than 300,000 cars daily and is a five-level stack interchange appropriately named Spaghetti Bowl. If you're ever following directions around town in Albuquerque, chances are you'll be one of those 300,000 cars.

9. The Pit

The University of New Mexico Lobos play in a pit - but it's no ordinary hole in the ground. The Pit, in Albuquerque local lingo, is the basketball arena for the Lobos. Half buried in the ground, The Pit is unique in that there are no supporting pillars in the seating area of the arena, so there are no obstructed views. The venue, currently under remodeling, will seat just over 16,000 screaming Lobo fans. The Pit is also known to be one of the loudest college arenas, as decibel levels inside can make the ears of every fan ring. The Pit is often home to the Men's NCAA regionals.

10. Sunport

This Albuquerque slang term for airport isn't actually slang - it's official. The name of Albuquerque's airport, which handles between six and seven million passengers a year, is Albuquerque International Sunport. Nobody knows quite why!
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Tori Towers

#6 - Isotopes is the name of the team while 'Topes is the slang of the name Isotopes. Sigh... I can't read anymore of this!

December 07 2015 at 2:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tori Towers

#3 - It's CHILE, not chili. Chili is a dish made with beans, meat and seasonings. Chile are peppers, usually hot.

December 07 2015 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hash crowd. But yeah, the "chili" thing was pretty blatant.

April 28 2011 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Marty's big green "Q" thing only caught on with the one free newspaper " IQ" , never hear the Big I called anything like 'spagettii bowl'. Its called the Sunport cause thats been the name since at least the 50's. Its not " across the river, its "The westside". I think I can count the number of times Ive heard any order "Christmas" on one hand. personally I think it ruins and muddys the taste of both. finally If asked I tell folks I'm from "All be quirky"

April 27 2011 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harriet Engle

One correction, since the editor/proofreader is apparently not a Burqueño.... It's red or green CHILE as in the peppers. Chili is that stuff they serve next door in Texas. ;-) Accept no substitutes!

April 27 2011 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
email me for

Lived in 'Burque for nearly 30 years and in the 10 or so since the Big-I was reconstructed, I have never ever heard someone say "Spaghetti Bowl".

April 27 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to email me for's comment
Tori Towers

Born and lived there most of my life and I've only heard 'Spaghetti Bowl' used to describe the freeway system in Houston, TX.

December 07 2015 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

About half of what he terms as "slang" - isn't's the actual name of the item/object. For example: Luminaria is not slang. It is the actual word (spanish derivation) for the paper lanterns used in a long standing tradition in the southwest. Look it up.

The Pit is actually painted on the I'm thinking that it is an official name, not slang. I've been back East and the colleges there know what you're talking about when you say "The Pit".

And why add number 10 "The Sunport" on a list of slang terms and then state that it's the official title of our Airport.

Seems like he was fishing for something to turn into his editor without actually interacting with true Albuquerque natives. Just sayin'

BTW born and raised here in the 505! (oh wait...was that slang for Albuquerque?)

April 27 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Where is "Eee, I kno huh." or "A la ve" or "Are you getting down?" Now these are real Burque terms. Dang gabachos......

April 27 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cmadrid507's comment
Harriet Engle

Pues, ese, he probably couldn't even find the South Valley, let alone understand what they were saying! A la machina...

April 27 2011 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Chile is spelled Chile, not chili...Who is this idiot?? He has no business writing about Albuquerque.

April 27 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rachel's comment

Rachel - Agreed ! And since when is Luminaria a "slang term"?

April 27 2011 at 4:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply