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Origin of suspect

1250–1300; Middle English (adj.) < Latin suspectāre, equivalent to su- su- + spectāre, frequentative of specere to look at


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does sus mean?

Sus is a shortening of suspicious or suspect. In slang, it has the sense of “questionable” or “shady.”

Where does sus come from?

In England and Wales, sus appears in sus law, a name for a stop-and-search law that allowed the police to arrest suspected persons if they appear in violation of the Vagrancy Act of 1824.

The British shortening dates back to the 1950s, with earlier abbreviations of sus for suspicion in other contexts reaching into the 1930s (and related to suss out). Black and ethnic minority groups felt especially targeted by sus laws in the 1970s–80s and ran a successful campaign called Scrap Sus. The law was indeed scrapped in 1981.

Across the pond, sus is short of suspicious, extended to people’s behavior, beliefs, or other things deemed “shady” or “sketchy” in some way. Perhaps a shortening independent from the British English slang, sus spreads online in Black and internet slang in the early 2000s, entered on Urban Dictionary as early as 2003.

How is sus used in real life?

In the UK, expect to encounter sus in the context of historic sus laws, often discussed in terms of racial inequalities in policing.

On the internet and in Black slang, sus commonly calls out some behavior, action, person, or thing as questionable or objectionable. In this way, sus has come to mean “bad” more generally.

Sus has spread into more mainstream slang, notably appropriated by Tesla’s Elon Musk in a June 2018 tweet.


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.

Example sentences from the Web for suspect

British Dictionary definitions for suspect


verb (səˈspɛkt)

(tr) to believe guilty of a specified offence without proof
(tr) to think false, questionable, etcshe suspected his sincerity
(tr; may take a clause as object) to surmise to be the case; think probableto suspect fraud
(intr) to have suspicion

noun (ˈsʌspɛkt)

a person who is under suspicion

adjective (ˈsʌspɛkt)

causing or open to suspicion

Derived forms of suspect

suspecter, nounsuspectless, adjective

Word Origin for suspect

C14: from Latin suspicere to mistrust, from sub- + specere to look
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