15 Words and Phrases that Will Make You Sound Like a Washingtonian

If you want to sound less like a tourist and more like a local, take a look at this list of words and common phrases often heard and used here in Washington, D.C.

The Beltway – Geographically speaking, it’s the interior of the 64-mile circle Interstate 495 (aka The Capital Beltway) creates around the Washington Metropolitan area. If you hear someone use the idiom “Inside the Beltway”, they are talking about all the action that happens in Washington, D.C. every day!

The Bureau – Usually referring to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI HQ, located just off the National Mall, is one of many examples of Brutalist architecture, a staunch juxtaposition to the Neoclassical style Washington is known for. 

Capitol Hill – A neighborhood in Washington, D.C. that is home to the U.S. Capitol, Senate, House of Representatives, The Supreme Court, Library of Congress and much more! When Washingtonians refer to “the hill”, they are usually talking about the legislative branch of government.

DMV – Elsewhere in the country this acronym usually stands for the Department of Motor Vehicles, here in the Beltway, it’s an acronym for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area that includes D.C., Maryland and Virginia. 

FSO – An acronym for Foreign Service Officer. FSOs work for the State Department and often spend much of their career overseas working in embassies and consulates.

Govie – A federal government employee. Not to be confused with someone who works for a government contractor.

Lobbying – In the field of Government Relations, it refers to the practice of influencing policy. One common origin of the term “lobbyist” involves President Ulysses S. Grant describing a lobby full of constituents and advocates vying for his attention at the Willard Hotel on a regular basis. 

The Mall – No, not that kind of mall! The National Mall is the large grassy area lined with museums and monuments, including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, in downtown Washington. If you are looking for a shopping mall, head to Tysons Corner Center in nearby Tysons, Virginia. It’s one of the largest malls in the United States.

Metro – The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, more commonly referred to as the Metro, is the agency that operates our public transportation system. The Metrorail is commonly called the Metro (not a subway). 

Motorcade – Vehicle processions used to transport VIPs around the city. Ranging in size from a few large SUVs to more than 20 vehicles for more high-profile passengers. Road closures and helicopters circling above are signs that you are about to experience one. If you are looking to get a glimpse of the POTUS, Presidential Motorcades are commonplace around 17th Street NW near the White House. Look for an armored stretch Cadillac sporting American flags and the Presidential seal. 

The Nats and The Caps – The Washington Nationals or the Nats for short is the Major League Baseball team here in D.C., and The Washington Capitals or The Caps is our professional ice hockey team. Both teams are champions! The Nats won the World Series in 2019 and The Caps won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS- Acronyms that stand for President oThe United States, First Lady oThe United States and Supreme Court oThe United States.

Think Tank – A type of nonprofit organization that carries out research and advocacy work around social, political and economic topics. D.C. is home to more than 50 think tanks, including Think Tank Row a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue NW near Dupont Circle that is home to more than a dozen think tanks and academic institutions.

NoVa – Short for Northern Virginia.

NW, NE, SW, SE – D.C. is divided into four quadrants named by their ordinal directions: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast. Deep inside the U.S. Capitol, there is a medallion where all four quadrants intersect. There are a number of identically named streets and intersections in each quadrant so it is important to know if the address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (The White House) or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NE (an apartment complex).