Slang dictionary



What 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 (= not going) to copping to (confessing to) eating the last slice of pizza.

Related words

Paul Blart Mall Cop, jump out boys, the struggle is real, savvy?

Where does cop come from?

Simpsons Wiki - Fandom

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 copperthieves’ 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 (probably influenced the term).

Cop has taken on verb 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 US. The more British expression fair cop, or “an admission of wrongdoing,” was notably used in the 1975 Monty Python and Holy Grail.

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
Since Nintendo is trending today, is it worth it to cop a Switch? / Not a Nintendo Switch. I mean a switch to beat myself with so the pain of knowing why Nintendo is trending is diminished.
@SirajAHashmi, September 2018
OPD was hella nice at rollin loud one of the cops got me ranch for chicken strips and shit 😭 I was being overly nice I need that escort when I come through the city LOL
@kamaiyah, September 2018

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.”

Law enforcement officers use cop as a convenient, gender-neutral term that can apply across various agencies. They’ve captivated our cultural imagination. 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, RIP Burt Reynolds), 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 has been going strong since 1989

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of cop like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of cop that will help our users expand their word mastery.