“Wicked” usage in New England

“Wicked” used in sayings like “It’s wicked cold outside.”


The informant is in her mid 50’s and is currently living in Tampa, Florida. She grew up in Massachusetts about 20 minutes outside of Boston. She was born in MA and lived there for around 35 years before moving down to Florida. The informant often uses “wicked” in place of “very.” Examples would include phrases like “The line was wicked long” or “The price of that meal was wicked expensive.” The informant usually doesn’t use this phrase in Florida but whenever she visits Boston, she uses this word a lot. The informant also uses this word a lot when she talks to her family in New England on the phone. The informant says she especially uses this phrase when she’s talking to her dad because her dad loves using this word and so the informant makes sure to match his language. The informant’s dad is also from MA and has only ever spent time in New England.


The use of the word “wicked” in New England can be traced back to the region’s colonial roots. The Puritans who settled in the area brought with them a rigid moral code, and the word “wicked” was often used to describe anything sinful. Over time, however, the word began to be used more broadly to mean “very” or “extremely”, perhaps as a way of adding emphasis without resorting to profanity. The usage of “wicked” is largely confined to New England because the region has historically been somewhat separated from the rest of the country. This isolation, combined with the region’s unique dialect and cultural traditions, may have helped to preserve the use of “wicked” as a regionalism.

This is a popular phrase and is a type of minor genre in folklore. This phrase connects people and gives people from New England something in common. If you ever hear a person saying this phrase it’s a giveaway that they’re from New England. I interpret this word to mean “very.” However, I think this word will always have a slightly negative connotation for me just because I’m used to hearing my mom and grandpa use it to complain about things. Also, the word wicked will always have a negative connotation for me because I’ve always compared this word to evil, even though in the informant’s context that’s not what it means at all.