graffiti jargon

*is periodically updated; last update: Oct.30, 2011

In alphabetical order:

to bite– to copy another writer’s style (lettering, ideas) without permission.

black book– a graffiti writer’s sketch book where they plan out potential works, perfect their style or pretty much whatever they choose to use it for. The best ones have thick pages so the ink won’t run and can be bought for a fair price at art supply stores.

to bomb; bombers– to cover as many surfaces as possible in an area with your tag; those who engage in bombing

to buff– to remove graffiti, usually done by property owners and public officials

burner– an elaborate work of graffiti, used to refer to especially beautiful pieces

crew– a collaboration of writers who tend to engage in graffiti together; often, when a writer is MIA, the others will write in their tag for them, showing group solidarity

to “get up”– to get your work up onto public space

to go over; going over– to paint over someone else’s work; generally acceptable if one covers up with a work that is higher in complexity, but is nevertheless frowned upon and can be seen as a declaration of war.

graff; graffer– dimunitive form of graffiti; another word for someone who engages in graffiti

graffiti– plural of the Italian word “graffito” which means “little scratch”. Long associated with vandalism, everyone has their own opinion on what is or isn’t graffiti. On this site, graffiti is any lettering applied in any manner onto public space or private property without official consent.

king– a title of respect given to writers who earned their reputation either through the intricacy of their work, their ability to either tag the most inaccessible areas or the large number and range of the areas they have bombed. Usually a title that is reserved for those who have executed pieces. 

memorial graff– R.I.P. messages; often, the dedication is topped by a halo

mural– usually a term reserved for large scale legal pieces & street art; since they are sanctioned, they lose a bit of the rawness and intensity that the unsanctioned works have

piece– large scale tag; short for “masterpiece”, the most elaborate and beautiful form of signature graffiti; usually polychromatic and utilizes special effects such as shadowing and highlighting. Very common on the side of trains or in alleyways where police presence is scarce. The riskiest form of graffiti an artist can engage in.

scratchiti– a type of graffiti that is scratched onto a surface, usually glass, and consequently impossible to remove. Very common on bus windows and bus shelters.

to slash; slashing– to put a line through another writer’s work; a sign of extreme disrespect

street art– usually an image (stencil, sticker, painting…) that an audience can easily identify with and make up their opinion about. You either connect with street art or you don’t. Not as marginalized as graffiti is as they are more readily legible and easier to understand.

tag– the simplest and most prevalent form of signature graffiti which consists solely of a writer‘s chosen moniker; usually monochromatic, can be spray-painted, written using permanent marker, white-out or any other method. A tagger is one who engages in signature graffiti.

throw-up– a slightly more complex and larger-scale form of the tag, usually with at least two colours; can be distinguished from pieces due to the lack of special effects. Usually characterized by bubbly letters that can be filled in using a different colour.

toy– an amateur writer

wildstyle– highly stylized form of graffiti that is difficult to read by the layman; style characterized by elaborate interlocking letters

writer– someone who engages in graffiti writing


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