“The Big Apple” is a nickname for New York City. It was first popularized in the 1920s by John J. Fitz Gerald, a sports writer for the New York Morning Telegraph. Its popularity since the 1970s is due in part to a promotional campaign by the New York tourist authorities.
Around 1920, New York City newspaper reporter John Fitz Gerald, whose beat was the track, heard African-American stable hands in New Orleans say they were going to “the big apple,” a reference to New York City, whose race tracks were considered big-time venues. Fitz Gerald soon began making mention of the Big Apple in his newspaper columns. In the 1930s, jazz musicians adopted the term to indicate New York City was home to big-league music clubs.
As it happens, long before New York City was nicknamed the Big Apple, it was known briefly as New Orange. In 1673, the Dutch captured New York from the English and dubbed it New Orange in honor of William III of Orange. However, the following year, the city reverted to English control and its former name.