10 Graffiti Terms and Their Meaning | Widewalls (2023)

Top Lists, Graffiti & Street Art

October 16, 2014

Matt Randal

Just like any other subculture, graffiti and street art have their own specific language and terms, with hundreds of words and phrases used to describe different graffiti fonts, styles and aspects. As it is the case with other jargons or colloquialisms, some phrases and words used in the world of graffiti are region-specific and they vary in different cities and countries.

Today, we take a look at ten most commonly used graffiti slang words. We have described the origins of each term, the meaning it has in graffiti world and its current application to the graffiti culture.


Graffiti term 'angel' is most commonly used when referring to a famous or highly respected graffiti artist who has passed away. Graffiti writers who admire 'angels' tag their names with floating halos, make tribute pieces with their faces or write tags with the dates of their birth and death. Featured is the photograph of Banksy's 'angel', a tribute mural piece he did in the memory of graffiti writer Ozone who was tragically killed by a moving train. It was painted on the same wall on which Banksy and Ozone had a small artistic dispute when Ozone painted over one of Banksy's pieces.

Find available artworks by Banksy on Widewalls marketplace!


'King' (or 'queen' for female writers) is a graffiti writer who is especially respected among other writers. Some people refer to different writers as kings of different graffiti styles,and the term is regionally subjective.Self-declared kings often incorporate crowns into their pieces but other writers tend to slash them out if they have not gained that rank in their eyes. Typically a writer can only become a king if another king has called him a king. Featured photograph is of a graffiti painted by Team Robbo on the piece of the London wall, which was the battle ground in a graffiti war waged between King Robbo and Banksy.

Married Couple

'Married couple' is an older subway term, originated from New York City and used to describe two subway cars which are permanently coupled, identified by their consecutive numbers and the shared single air compressor and electrical generator between them. In graffiti world, the term 'married couple' refers to two simultaneous train cars painted next to each other with a single painting evenly spread across both cars. Some graffiti artists cleverly twist the term by connecting the two paintings across the gap between the two cars, often in a humoristic or obvious way, in order to emphasize the marriage.

Heaven Spot

'Heaven spot', or 'heaven' in short, is a graffiti term which refers to dare devil graffiti pieces that are painted in places that are hard to reach, such as rooftops, overpasses and freeway signs, thus making them hard to remove. Heaven spot pieces often pose dangerous challenges for graffiti writers to execute, but because of that, they increase an artist's notoriety. The term 'heaven spot' also encompasses a double meaning, as writing on dangerous locations may lead to accidents and result in artist's death, thus going to heaven, or 'hitting up the heavens'.


The graffiti term 'piece', short of masterpiece, is used to describe a large, complex, time-consuming and labor-intensive graffiti painting, usually painted by skilled and experienced writers. It is generally agreed that a painting must have at least three colors to be considered a graffiti piece, but 'pieces' often incorporate color transitions, shadows and three-dimensional effects. The word 'piece' is also used as a verb meaning 'to write'. Featured photograph is of a wonderful piece by the graffiti artist Risk (ACT crew) painted in Sheffield, UK, which sadly does not exist anymore as the disused building it was painted on was demolished to make place for a new housing project.

Interested in graffiti pieces? Check out available works by RISK at our marketplace!


Tag is the most basic and the most prevalent form of graffiti. It can be treated as an essential answer to the question 'What does graffiti mean?', and it's certainly the most famous embodiment of graffiti culture. Graffiti tag is usually written with marker or spray paint and in one color, which is sharply contrasted with its background. Tag is a stylized personal signature and contains graffiti writer's name, also known as a moniker. Graffiti writers often tag their pieces, following the practice of traditional artists who sign their artwork. Since the beginning of tagging in the mid twentieth century, individual graffiti scenes have developed very different forms of tagging that are unique to specific regions. The word 'tag' is also very widely used as a verb meaning 'to sign', even in other, non-graffiti related types of occasions.

Back to Back

The term 'back to back' refers to graffiti piece that is painted all the way across a wall, from end to end. Similar to 'back to back' graffiti, trains sometimes receive 'end to end' paintings, often abbreviated as 'e2e',when a train car has been painted along its entire length. 'End to end' graffiti were used to be called 'window-downs', but this is an older expression that is fading from popularity. The meaning of this graffiti term can be expanded, as 'Back to back' is also widely used to describe 'throw-up' graffiti that are painted one after another.

Black Book

'Black book', also called 'piece book', is a graffiti writers' sketch book in which they draw and plan out potential graffiti works, but it can also be a book featuring a collection of tags written by other graffiti writers. Graffiti writers use their black books to perfect their style and save their ideas for possible later execution in public spaces. Quality black book, made of thick pages so the ink does not run, is a must have for any graffiti artist, and can be bought for a fair price at art supply stores. As it can be used as material evidence in cases asking "is graffiti art or vandalism", the writers carefully guard their black books from the possible seizure by the police and city authorities.


'Throw-up' or 'throwie' is a widely referenced graffiti term, most commonly used to describe tag-like drawings of bubble letters designed for quick execution (we all know why) of graffiti words, and usually consisting of artist's name and only two colors. More strictly, it's meaning in subway art is described as an outlined name painted quickly with only one layer of spraypaint, even though many consider it to be bubble letters of any sort. Featured image is of the famous Panic Room byTilt, meticulously painted throw-up intervention he did in the Au Vieux Panier hotel in Marseille, France. Another famous and highly representative throw-up graffiti artist is a New York City street art legend Cope2.

Whole Train

The meaning of the term 'whole train' is quite self-explanatory in the graffiti world. It is used to describe train cars which have been completely covered in graffiti, from the first to the last car of the train composition. Being an extremely demanding artistic intervention, whole train painting demands a group effort and it is usually executed by multiple artists or graffiti crews. As in any other group activities, the diversity of styles employed by different artists yields wonderful results, and it is one of the most respected forms of graffiti art as it involves patient, time limited work and represents a great risk of getting caught by the police.

All images for illustrative purposes only

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What is graffiti in simple terms? ›

Graffiti is marks, scratching or drawings made on a surface on a public place. It is often created with paint or spray paint (paint that is sprayed from a can). A single mark could be called a graffito but the word graffiti is usually used, meaning that there is more than one mark.

What does Wekman mean? ›

Weckmann is a type of pastry in German-speaking countries.

What does K mean in graffiti? ›

Not as frequently used now as it was in the early days. Crew - A loosely organized group of writers who also tag the crew initials along with their name. Crew names are usually three letters, many times ending with K, which stands for kings or kills in most cases.

What are the elements of graffiti? ›

The Elements of Art and the Elements of Graffiti

The first three elements of art are line, shape, and form. The three elements of graffiti mirror those art elements by manifesting as a “tag,” “throw,” and “piece.” A “tag” is a word design using the qualities of line.

Who is the father of graffiti? ›

It is quite possible that there would be no graffiti history as we know it, for Darryl McCray, who was given the nickname Cornbread while in a juvenile corrections facility, is widely regarded as the father of modern day graffiti.

What is graffiti in full? ›

Graffiti is words or pictures that are written or drawn in public places, for example on walls or posters.

Is graffiti an art or crime? ›

All in all, graffiti is arguably an art form because it's an expression of the artist's particular viewpoint or idea. For this reason, it belongs in the hall of culture as much as painting and architecture.

Why is it called graffiti? ›

"Graffiti" (usually both singular and plural) and the rare singular form "graffito" are from the Italian word graffiato ("scratched"). The term "graffiti" is used in art history for works of art produced by scratching a design into a surface.

What does Texer mean? ›

/ (ˈtɛkstə) / noun. a person who communicates by text messaging.

What is Antsi? ›

1 informal : restless, fidgety antsy children also : impatient, eager antsy for a new challenge. 2 informal : nervous, apprehensive antsy investors. Synonyms & Antonyms More Example Sentences Learn More About antsy.

What does Toeflop stand for? ›

“It sounds like foot drop, which is a neurological condition requiring spinal surgery,” suggested one commenter. Observing the similarity of Toeflop to TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), another hypothesized that the graffiti writer had probably failed, or flopped, the exam.

What does MK mean? ›

Mk is a slang term that is the same as saying "OK." It is typically used when saying "yes" to a question or agreeing with someone. The term is typically used when someone is unsure but still answers in the affirmative. It may also be used by snooty people as a substitute for OK.

What does J mean? ›

It's actually fairly simple: /J means “joking” while /HJ means “half-joking.” It appears that the millennial abbreviation JK — or “just kidding” — wasn't cutting it.

What does Oner mean in graffiti? ›

Over the years, online buzz has put forth a few theories. One school of thought has it that the word isn't actually “boner” but should instead read “B Oner.” A “oner” is a term for a graffiti artist who doesn't roll with a crew.

What does X3 mean in graffiti? ›

X3 translates to 13, representing M, the 13th letter of the alphabet.

What is a slap tag? ›

Slap Tag. 08/29/2017. A message for parents: Above is an example of a "slap tag". It is nothing more than a postal label, decorated with graffiti. These are commonly used by taggers/graffiti artists to quickly vandalize public or private property with less of a chance of being caught.

What is graffiti lettering called? ›

Wildstyle is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti. Due to its complexity, it is often very hard to read by people who are not familiar with it. Usually, this form of graffiti incorporates interwoven and overlapping letters and shapes.

What are the 7 elements of art? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.

What is the most common type of graffiti? ›

In areas where graffiti is prevalent, gang and tagger graffiti are the most common types found. While other forms of graffiti may be troublesome, they typically are not as widespread. The proportion of graffiti attributable to differing motives varies widely from one jurisdiction to another.

Who first started graffiti? ›

The first modern graffiti writer is widely considered to be Cornbread, a high school student from Philadelphia, who in 1967 started tagging city walls to get the attention of a girl. But it was only in the 1980s that galleries began to showcase graffiti as artwork.

What was the first graffiti? ›

The earliest graffiti was created prior to written language and the first drawings on walls appeared in caves thousands of years ago. “Cueva de las Manos” (The Cave of Hands), located in Santa Cruz, Argentina, offers one of the first fascinating ancient graffiti. The painting dates from 13,000 to 9,000 BCE.

Is there a graffiti font? ›

Urban Decay

Urban decay is a handmade brush font that creator Zofos made to 'celebrate graffiti, urban exploration, street calligraphy and inner city living. ' This font is one of the best graffiti fonts we've seen, with a rugged authenticity that will bring an urban feel to your projects.

What is graffiti in PUBG? ›

The Music Graffiti Wall has been added to the spawn island on Erangel in PUBGM. Players can spray paint within marked squares on the wall to play different notes. Several squares can be spray painted to trigger multiple melodies at the same time.

Why graffiti is a crime? ›

The art of spraying walls, Graffiti, is illegal in many countries around the world. India is no different, as it considers Graffiti to fall under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976. However, over the years our country's tolerance towards it has increased a lot.

What is street art called? ›

Street art can be used interchangeably with the terms “independent art”, “post-graffiti”, “neo-graffiti”, and “guerrilla art”. Murals have been around since the renaissance, and the term mural is often used interchangeably with street art.

What do you call a graffiti artist? ›

Early graffiti artists were commonly called "writers" or "taggers" (individuals who write simple "tags," or their stylized signatures, with the goal of tagging as many locations as possible.)

Is graffiti illegal in India? ›

Often, a graffiti can land you in legal trouble in various countries, but in India, the artist says, the laws are a bit vague and hence a graffiti is not considered illegal. “Graffiti artists also use aliases to remain anonymous and create something in public spaces for an interaction with the people.

Is graffiti illegal in UK? ›

In England and Wales, graffiti is considered an act of criminal damage under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and offenders can be punished with an unlimited fine. In Scotland, graffiti is treated as an act of vandalism, and prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995.

What does 1UP mean in graffiti? ›

Biography / 1UP

One United Power, better known under their almost Super Mario-esque abbreviation 1UP is an enigmatic group of graffiti artists based in Berlin. Neither the exact number of group members nor their age or education is known, what is known though is the almost superhuman scope of their art.

What is graffiti lettering called? ›

Wildstyle is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti. Due to its complexity, it is often very hard to read by people who are not familiar with it. Usually, this form of graffiti incorporates interwoven and overlapping letters and shapes.

What is straight letter graffiti? ›

This section you can still see the small sliver of space right here on the P. And that's. Important.

What does Oner mean in graffiti? ›

Over the years, online buzz has put forth a few theories. One school of thought has it that the word isn't actually “boner” but should instead read “B Oner.” A “oner” is a term for a graffiti artist who doesn't roll with a crew.

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