Origin of cop1
Words nearby cop
Other definitions for cop (2 of 6)
- 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.
- cop a plea.
Origin of cop2
Other definitions for cop (3 of 6)
Origin of cop3
Other definitions for cop (4 of 6)
Other definitions for cop (5 of 6)
Other definitions for cop (6 of 6)
ABOUT THIS WORD
What else does cop mean?
A cop is an informal term for a police officer.
As a verb, cop is used in a variety of slang expressions meaning “grab” or “obtain,” from copping a feel on someone (not recommended) to copping out on going to a party (meaning “not going”) to copping to (meaning “confessing to”) eating the last slice of pizza.
Where did cop come from?
The many, seemingly unrelated, meanings of cop start to make sense when you know where the word comes from. Via French, cop ultimately comes the Latin capere, or “to seize, snatch, take, grab.”
Cop became slang for “seizing” in the early 1700s. This verb may have given rise to copper, thieves’ slang for “law enforcement” by the 1840s and shortened to cop by the 1850s. For much of its history, it was often seen as dismissive or derogatory, though most police officers are just fine with it in contemporary use.
Other theories root cop as an acronym for constable on patrol (unlikely) or as a reference to copper badges early policemen wore in New York (this probably did influence the term).
Cop has taken on many other senses in the 20th century. We can find cop a feel, or “to grope someone,” in the 1930s as well as to cop to something, or “confess.” We can find cop on, or “understand something,” in the 1940s, the same decade there’s evidence for cop out, or “give up.” In the 1950s, we can find to cop as in “to obtain illegal drugs.” We can find cop an attitude, or “assume an adamant stance,” in the 1970s.
Cop has many other senses in English outside the U.S. The more British expression fair cop, or “an admission of wrongdoing,” was notably used in the 1975 Monty Python and Holy Grail.
ACAB is a derogatory acronym that stands for All Cops Are Bastards and All Coppers Are Bastards, among other variants. Often used alongside ACAB is its numerical equivalent 1312, based on the letters’ alphabetical position (A is the 1st letter in the alphabet, etc.). ACAB dates back to the 1970s.
And why are cops called 12? The number 12 is sometimes used as code word or shorthand for cops, often in derogatory contexts, such as in the 2013 song “F*** 12” by the Atlanta-area hip-hop trio Migos. While some connect this 12 to 1312 of ACAB, others think this slang item—which indeed spread from Atlanta—comes from the police radio ten-code 10-12 (“stand by”) or the 1970s Los Angeles police procedural TV show Adam-12.
Who uses cop?
Cop is all about context. As a verb, it shows up in a great number of expressions variously dealing with “grabbing,” from copping feels, attitudes, and drugs. Other verbal cops bring us back to legal territory, like copping to crimes and copping pleas. A cop-out is also a common expression for an “excuse.”
Bayonne 13-year-olds return X-Box to classmate after copping to burglary http://t.co/hyneuwIn6L
— njdotcom (@njdotcom) May 21, 2013
“Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and
don’t quit until you attain it. When you do… https://t.co/SZdKIsJPBi
— Leonard Johnson (@chang40) November 29, 2018
Law enforcement officers use cop as a convenient, gender-neutral term that can apply across various agencies. Ice-T faced massive backlash in 1992 for his song “Cop Killer.” Ironically, he’s been playing a cop on Law and Order: SVU since 2000.
Cop movies are incredibly popular, including Beverly Hills Cop (1984), RoboCop (1987,) Kindergarten Cop (1990,) Cop and a Half (1993), Timecop (1994,) Cop Land (1997,) Paul Blart, Mall Cop (2009,) and our favorite, the 1991 cinematic masterpiece that is Samurai Cop. The reality TV show Cops started in 1989 but was recently canceled in the midst of the George Floyd protests in June 2020.
More examples of cop:
“Somebody called me on the phone / They said, “Hey, is Dee Dee home? / Do you wanna take a walk? You wanna go cop? / You wanna go get some Chinese Rocks?”
—Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, “Chinese Rocks” (song), 1977
“The five charged with acting as fake cops for years, dressed like real officers, had badges, handcuffs and guns, drove vehicles with emergency lights and would tell people they were the police, investigators previously said.“
—Dominic Adams, Michigan News, September 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
How to use cop in a sentence
That means cops with dubious records sometimes get bounced around police agencies.Sacramento Report: Jones, COVID-19 and the Irony of Remote Voting|Sara Libby and Jesse Marx|August 28, 2020|Voice of San Diego
Diamandis compares it to a cop walking the beat, but for a biological threat—that is, it requires a more targeted approach than searching for one criminal.Why Covaxx thinks it has a COVID-19 vaccine game changer on its hands|Sy Mukherjee|August 27, 2020|Fortune
However, private security agents still face far less public scrutiny than the average cop.Defund the Police? Here Come the Private Security Patrols|Nick Fouriezos|August 27, 2020|Ozy
Earlier this month, Kate Nucci reported that cops since 2013 had issued at least 83 tickets for seditious language.Morning Report: SDPD Says It Will Stop Seditious Language Tickets|Voice of San Diego|August 17, 2020|Voice of San Diego
When Jennifer Strong and I started reporting on the use of face recognition technology by police for our new podcast, “In Machines We Trust,” we knew these AI-powered systems were being adopted by cops all over the US and in other countries.There is a crisis of face recognition and policing in the US|Tate Ryan-Mosley|August 14, 2020|MIT Technology Review
Smith attended both funerals as a cop and as the husband of Police Officer Moira Smith, who died on 9/11.The Muslim Cop Killed by Terrorists|Michael Daly|January 9, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Lucas said that he himself nonetheless hopes to become a cop.
Nobody ever says they want to become a cop so they can bust people for urinating in public or drinking alcohol on their stoop.
The NOPD fired Knight in 1973 for stealing lumber from a construction site as an off-duty cop.The Louisiana Racists Who Courted Steve Scalise|Jason Berry|January 3, 2015|DAILY BEAST
They selected an “easy mark” who turned out to be an off-duty NYC Housing Authority cop named James Carragher.His First Day Out Of Jail After 40 Years: Adjusting To Life Outside|Justin Rohrlich|January 3, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Once he had been a young cop, determined to work his way up in the police force.
In his efforts to clear himself, the young cop had taken half a dozen lead slugs from underworld guns into his body.
It was the Hermit's vast store of scientific knowledge that brought the half-dead cop back to health.
The sight of a traffic cop made him dodge around a corner that threw him off his course.
He struck just one wild haymaker of a blow that cleared the head of the cop by nearly a foot.
British Dictionary definitions for cop (1 of 4)
- to accept a penalty without complaint
- to have good fortune