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[kop-out] /ˈkɒpˌaʊt/
noun, Informal.
an act or instance of copping out; reneging; evasion:
The governor's platform was a cop-out.
a person who cops out:
Everyone helped as they had promised, except for one cop-out.
Origin of cop-out
First recorded in 1940-45; noun use of verb phrase cop out


[kop] /kɒp/
verb (used with object), copped, copping. Informal.
to catch; nab.
to steal; filch.
to buy (narcotics).
Verb phrases
cop out,
  1. to avoid one's responsibility, the fulfillment of a promise, etc.; renege; back out (often followed by on or of):
    He never copped out on a friend in need. You agreed to go, and you can't cop out now.
  2. cop a plea.
cop a plea,
  1. to plead guilty or confess in return for receiving a lighter sentence.
  2. to plead guilty to a lesser charge as a means of bargaining one's way out of standing trial for a more serious charge; plea-bargain.
1695-1705; compare cap (obsolete) to arrest, Scots cap to seize ≪ dialectal Old French caper to take, ultimately < Latin capere Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cop out
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Seen a cop out of the tail of my eye," she explained, hurriedly.

    The Purple Heights Marie Conway Oemler
  • He simply can't lose, can't fail to cop out the best-looking girl with the biggest bank-roll in town.

    The Fortune Hunter Louis Joseph Vance
  • He knew he was plain pastry for the Sharks, so he would hang around the first Tee waiting to cop out a Pudding.

    Ade's Fables George Ade
  • Brownlee excused himself and followed the cop out, leaving me to explain things to His Grace.

    Nor Iron Bars a Cage.... Gordon Randall Garrett
  • Meanin' as you'll walk right in on Bud's tough bunch an' cop out d' Kid on y'r lonesome—eh?

    The Definite Object

    Jeffery Farnol
  • Fritz has been over a good bit lately and we have to put out our lights as soon as it gets dark, else we'd cop out for sure.

    Combed Out

    Fritz August Voigt
  • Suddenly the burglar stopped and called to him softly: "Ain't there a cop out there in front somewhere sparking the girl?"


    O. Henry
British Dictionary definitions for cop out

cop out

(intransitive, adverb) to fail to assume responsibility or to commit oneself
an instance of avoiding responsibility or commitment
a person who acts in this way
Word Origin
C20: probably from cop1


another name for policeman
(Brit) an arrest (esp in the phrase a fair cop)
an instance of plagiarism
verb (transitive) cops, copping, copped
to seize or catch
to steal
to buy, steal, or otherwise obtain (illegal drugs) Compare score (sense 26)
Also cop it. to suffer (a punishment): you'll cop a clout if you do that!
(Austral, slang) cop it sweet
  1. to accept a penalty without complaint
  2. to have good fortune
See also cop off, cop out
Word Origin
C18: (vb) perhaps from obsolete cap to arrest, from Old French caper to seize; sense 1, back formation from copper²


a conical roll of thread wound on a spindle
(mainly dialect) the top or crest, as of a hill
Word Origin
Old English cop, copp top, summit, of uncertain origin; perhaps related to Old English coppcup


(Brit, slang) (usually used with a negative) worth or value: that work is not much cop
Word Origin
C19: n use of cop1 (in the sense: to catch, hence something caught, something of value)


abbreviation (in New Zealand)
Certificate of Proficiency: a pass in a university subject
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cop out

by 1942, noun and verb, "sneak off, escape," American English slang, probably from cop a plea (c.1925) "plead guilty to lesser charges," probably from northern British slang cop "to catch" (a scolding, etc.); cf. cop a feel "grope someone" (1930s); see cop (v.). Sense of "evade an issue or problem" is from 1960s.



1704, northern British dialect, "to seize, to catch," perhaps ultimately from Middle French caper "seize, to take," from Latin capere "to take" (see capable); or from Dutch kapen "to take," from Old Frisian capia "to buy," which is related to Old English ceapian (see cheap). Related: Copped; copping.



"policeman," 1859, abbreviation of earlier copper (n.2), 1846, from cop (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for cop out

cop out

verb phrase

  1. To be arrested (1940s+ Underworld)
  2. To confess; plead guilty; cop a plea: I copped out (1940s+)
  3. To avoid trouble and responsibility; evade an issue or problem; disengage oneself: When his friends really needed help he copped out (1960s+ Counterculture)



  1. A police officer (1850s+)
  2. A theft
  3. An arrest


  1. To arrest (1850s+)
  2. To steal: He copped six PCs from the shop (1900+)
  3. To win; be awarded: to cop second place (1914+)
  4. To comprehend; grasp: I don't quite cop your sense, pal (1940s+)
  5. To buy or get narcotics: The pusher has appeared, and they will make their round-about way to him to ''cop'' (1960s+ Narcotics)

Related Terms

good cop bad cop

[origin uncertain; perhaps ultimately fr Latin capere ''seize,'' by way of French; police officer sense a shortening of copper; second sense ''seize, catch'' attested by 1704]



An evasion; an excuse for inaction: Arguing about standards is a ''cop-out'' (1960s+ Counterculture)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with cop out

cop out

Back out of a responsibility or commitment; also, take the easy way out. For example, Don't count on him; he's been known to fake illness and cop out, or She'll cop out and let her assistant do all the work. These meanings are derived from the underworld slang use of cop out for backing down or surrendering. [ Late 1950s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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