List of police-related slang terms

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Many slang terms, often considered offensive, exist for police officers. These terms are rarely used by the police themselves and instead are used by criminals, prisoners, or by the general public.

Police services also have their own internal slang and jargon; some of it is relatively widespread geographically and some very localized.

B[edit]

Babylon
Jamaican, establishment systems, often applied to the police. Also used in Black English outside of Jamaica.[1] Derived from the Rastafari movement which, in turn, relies upon a Babylon (New Testament) interpretation symbolising debauchery, corruption and evil-doing in general. The term was used as the title of the 2014 British police drama Babylon.
Bacon
See Pig. Utilized interchangeably with the term "Pig/Pigs" and is often derogatory. Can refer to a single officer or any number of officers.
Barney
Slang term for a town policeman, usually derogatory, named after Barney Fife.
Bears
A slang term for the police (CB slang, "Smokey the Bear" in reference to the Highway Patrol campaign hats.:
The Beast
American term used in this singular form to refer to any number of police officers as well as when referring to an entire police force or to police in general. This linguistic pattern results in an implied sense that individual police are all representative parts of one whole, monstrous creature with a united objective and attitude. Referenced most widely on The Fugees' album The Score.
Bill
Also Old Bill. The Bill was the title of a television police series in the UK, based in a fictional London borough.
Bird
US, slang for a police helicopter. See also Ghetto Bird. Not to be confused with the UK parallel to "chicks", a more modern and now more common use of "birds."
Bizzies
UK, said to have been coined in Merseyside, as the police were always too "busy" to help citizens who reported low-level crimes such as house burglaries. An alternative origin is that the police are seen as "busybodies", i.e. they ask too many questions and meddle in the affairs of others.
Blues and Twos
UK, from the roof siren color and the two frequency sirens.
Blueband
UK, from the blue cap band worn by PSCOs.
Blue Force
American slang term for the police, mainly used in Florida.
Blue Heeler
Australian slang term for the police, particularly in rural areas, in reference to the blue appearance and traits of the Blue Heeler Australian Cattle Dog. Blue Heelers was a long running Australian police television drama series.
Blue Meanies
60s and 70s hippy slang for the police in Britain, referring to the blue uniforms.
Bobby
UK, derived from the Conservative British Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel ("Bobby" being a nickname for "Robert"), the founder of the Metropolitan Police.[2] Occurs in fixed phrases e.g. "bobby on the beat", "village bobby".
Booked
UK, usually after being arrested, to be taken to custody suite and held there in a cell. "They took me to the nick and they booked me." (Dizzie Rascal)
Bofia
a derogatory slang in Portugal used for police officers and law enforcement in general.[3]
Booze Bus
Australian slang term referring to a police roadside random breath testing station.
Boy Dem
UK slang term for one or more police officers.[4]
The Boys
Term used by African-American communities in Baltimore.
Boys in blue
In reference to the blue uniform.[5]
Bronze
Police.
Bull
Railroad police in the US, most prevalent in the first half of the 20th century.
Bulle
German for "the bull". Slang for police officer, often derogatory. Plural bullen refers to the police and bullerei to a police station.[6]
Buttons (The)
American, 1940's, referring to the large brass buttons of the era.
Byling
Old Swedish slang for patrolling officers. The word means "peeler" in Swedish and it is rarely used nowadays.[7]

C[edit]

Candy cars
Slang term for police cars in the UK due to the livery being yellow and green.
Cherry Toppers, Cherry Tops, or Cherries
Often used in reference to police cars which in some nations bear red lights on the top of the car. See Cherry top (slang).
Chimps
UK slang term for Community Support Officers, acronym for "Completely Hopeless In Most Policing Situations".[8]
CHIPS
Used to refer to California Highway Patrol Officers.
Clear
Often shouted when police, FBI or SWAT team have swept the area and no criminal activity is present at specific area of the criminal scene.
Cogne
French, roughly means "to beat up". It is used in Les Misérables among others.
Cop Shop
UK and Australia (and other Commonwealth English) slang for police station. Cop Shop was a long running Australian television series.
Cop or Copper
The term copper was the original, unshortened word, originally used in Britain to mean "someone who captures". In British English, the term cop is recorded (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) in the sense of 'to capture' from 1704, derived from the Latin capere via the Old French caper.[9] There is a common but mistaken belief that it refers to the police uniform's buttons or badge being made of copper.[10]
County Mountie
Used specifically in reference to county police officers or county sheriff's deputies in the United States.
Cuntstable
Derogatory UK slang term for a police officer.

D[edit]

Dibble
Slang from the character in Top Cat, "Dibble" has been adopted as an English-language derogatory slang term for police officer.[citation needed]
Dicks
Slang for detectives. Apparently originally coined in Canada and brought south by rumrunners during Prohibition.[citation needed] The fictional comic strip character Dick Tracy was given the first name of "Dick" in token of its being a slang expression for "detective".
Divvy Van
Australian slang for police van (divisional van). Term is confined mostly to Victoria and Western Australia.
Dogs
Georgian slang for police.
Donut Patrol
Refers to unhealthy police officers in the United States.

F[edit]

Fakabát
An old Hungarian term meaning "wooden-coat". This name comes from the brownish vinyl jackets issued as a part of the uniform during the Socialist era. The term is still widely known today.
Feds
Usually used in the United States to refer to federal law enforcement agencies, especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Marshals Service. Also used in Australia to refer to the Australian Federal Police, and in London as general slang for the Metropolitan Police Service, due to influence from American media.
Federales
Spanish, the Mexican Federal Police. The term gained widespread usage by English-speakers due to its popularization in films. The term is a cognate and counterpart to the slang "Feds" in the United States.
Feo
A term which indicates a law enforcement officer approaching the vicinity of the speaker. Taken from the Spanish word for "ugly", this slang term is exclusively used by the Puerto Rican and Dominican communities of Philadelphia and (to a lesser extent) New York City, United States.
Filth
Normally "The Filth", UK, the police. Inspiration for the Irvine Welsh novel Filth.[11] Also common in Australia and New Zealand, as with many other originally British police-related terms (especially given Australia's origins as a Commonwealth Nation with strong British influences, notably in law and policing origins).[citation needed]
Five-O
Derived from the name of the television series Hawaii Five-O, this term is used in the US and the UK. It is sometimes shouted out as a warning by lookouts or others engaged in illegal activity when a police officer is spotted.
Flatfoot
A term with uncertain origins. Possibly related to the large amount of walking that a police officer would do; at a time when the condition flat feet became common knowledge, it was assumed that excessive walking was a major cause. Another possible origin is the army's rejection of men with flat feet, who would often take jobs in law enforcement as a backup, particularly during war when established police officers would often join up (or be forced to).[12] What is known is that by 1912, flat-footed was an insult among American baseball players, used against players not "on their toes." This may have been applied to police officers sometime later, for similar reasons.[13]
Flic
A French word for police (singular "un flic", but more commonly used in the plural "les flics"), best translated as "cop". Much like "cop," this term is not derogatory.[14]
Fuzz
The term "fuzz" for police is British English in origin[citation needed] and refers to the felt covering (a soft, "fuzzy" fibre) of the custodian helmet worn by members of the Metropolitan Police Service. Use of the word "fuzz" as a slang reference to "Bobbies," itself a slang reference to police officers, was synchronous with the introduction of the helmet in 1863. The term was used in the title of Hot Fuzz, a 2007 police-comedy film.

G[edit]

Gammon
UK, see Bacon
Ghetto Bird
US, derogatory, slang for a police helicopter
Grass
Cockney (English) for a police informant: Grasshopper = Copper.[15] Alternative suggestions are from "Narc in the Park", or the song "Whispering Grass".
Guards or Guard
Éire, slang for the Garda Síochána or one of its members. From the old name for the force, the Civil Guards.
Gumshoe
US, derogatory, slang for detectives, who allegedly wear soft-heeled shoes or Hush Puppy shoes so they can follow suspects without being noticed[citation needed]
Gura
Latin American Spanish slang for police enforcement, derogatory[16]

H[edit]

Heat or The Heat
Slang for police and law enforcement in general.

J[edit]

Jack or Jacks
Australian slang for police officer/s. Can also can be used to describe an informant or an unreliable person. "To go jack on a mate" is the act of betraying associates or implicating them in a crime. A "jack (insert colourful name here)" is someone who is considered not be trusted. Also old slang for CID in Liverpool.[17]
Jam sandwich, or Jam Butty
UK, police traffic car, from the now largely obsolete historical colour-scheme – an overall white vehicle, with a longitudinal red, or red and yellow, stripe on each side. Still used for the metropolitan police in London. Silver cars with a red stripe down the side.

K[edit]

Karao
Used in Kenya to refer to police; seen as derogatory. Its source is the sheng language (mashup of English and Kiswahili).[18]
Keuf
French, used in the plural "les keufs", as slang for the police. This word is more derogatory than "les flics", even though it means the same thing. The word is derived from the pronunciation of "flic" as "FLEE-KUH". In verlan slang, words are often reversed, thus making the word "kuhflee". In turn, "flee" was dropped from the word, leaving "keuf".
Kollegen mat den Rallysträifen
Luxembourgish, literally "colleagues / fellows with the rally stripes". A reference to police officers with their police cars, which in Luxembourg have three stripes on the bonnet and on each side, representing the national colours (red, white, light blue). Due to the fact that the police cars are white as well as the colour of the central stripe, it seems like they only have two stripes on it, like rally cars. It has a more or less humorous character.
Kosmonavt
Russian, referring to an OMON policeman equipped with riot gear (literally "cosmonaut").[19][20]

L[edit]

Law or The Law
Probably an abbreviation of the phrase "The long arm of the law" (suggesting that no matter how far they run, all criminals are eventually caught and prosecuted successfully).[citation needed]
Legawye (pl)
Russian Легавые sg Легавый. Literally "gundog", "pointer". This was logo of Moscow Investigation Department in 1928.[citation needed]
Leos
Law enforcement Officers, used in the TV series Justified in 2010.
Local Yokel
A reference to city or town police forces, almost solely used in conjunction with "County Mountie". Mildly derogatory.

M[edit]

Mabándo
A term used to imply the presence of law enforcement officers in a particular area. Most commonly used by the Dominican and Puerto Rican communities of Philadelphia.
Mama/Mami
Marathi, slang, मामा/मामी. literally meaning "maternal uncle/his wife", it is one of the most common forms of addressing any male/female strange elder. Used frequently in Pune for traffic police personnel on the roads.
Man, The
Derogatory. Police officer or other government agent who has control, either by force or circumstance. Widely used in the United States, especially among African Americans and prisoners. Popular during the 1960s and 1970s by anti-establishment groups.[21]
Maréchaussée
The police force that preceded the Gendarmerie as the law enforcement agency in rural France. The Maréchaussée was under the control of the Maréchal (Eng: Marshal) de France, hence the name. In the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Marechaussee remains the military police force with civilian powers similar to the French Gendarmerie. The gendarmerie was established after the French revolution. French slang, mostly used in rural areas and aimed to the gendarmes.[citation needed]
Ment
Russian, slang, Мент, pl Менты. Only slightly disparaging, in general use (e.g. Ments is an alternative title for Streets of Broken Lights). The word dates back to the fifteenth century and is originally Hungarian, meaning "cloak" (because Austro-Hungarian police uniform included a cloak).[22]
Mr. Plod, P.C. Plod or Plodder
UK, slang, literary, (also used in Australia) from the Noddy books by Enid Blyton, in which Mr. Plod was the village policeman.[23]
Moosor
Russian, lit. "garbage" (but countable), offensive. Etymology uncertain, theories suggested include the acronym MUS for "Moscow Criminal Investigation [Office]" in Tzarist Russia and Hebrew for "informer." [24]
Mounties
Canada, colloquial, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

N[edit]

Narc or Nark
1. A term used for an informant. 2. An undercover narcotics agent.
Nick
A police station (British slang).
Nicked
To be arrested (British slang).

O[edit]

Old Bill
A term in use in London among other areas, inspiring the television series The Bill. The origin of this nickname is obscure; according to the Metropolitan Police themselves, there are at least 13 different explanations.[25] However, the word is quite old fashioned and is used much less nowadays, especially by younger people.
One Time
A term used in many English speaking countries, used because one looks at the police one time, so not to attract attention.
Occifer
A slang term used mainly in rural Alberta, Canada, to satirically reference the title of a police officer that one naturally assumes while intoxicated.

P[edit]

Paco
A derogatory Chilean term for Carabinéros, the national police force of Chile. In Costa Rica, a familiar term for police, loosely derogatory. The term comes from the nickname "Paco" given to Francisco Calderón, a Security Minister in the 1940s.[26]
Paddy Wagon
A police van.
Panda Car
UK, a police car. Named because they were originally painted with large panels of black and white, or blue (usually light blue) and white. First started by the Lancashire Constabulary in the 1960s.
Pandu
Marathi, derogatory, पांडू. Used chiefly in Mumbai.[27] This slang for policemen, especially hawaladars, ("हवालदार", meaning sergeant) came to be from the 1975 Dada Kondke film "Pandu Hawaldar".
Parak
A slang term used for policemen in the Philippines.
Party van
Russian, a police car or van, especially one housing an entire squad and sent out to perform a search and seizure and/or an arrest at a specific site. Hints at the "party" it's going to "throw" at its destination.
Pasma
Derogatory term used in Spain to refer to the police in general.[28]
Peeler
UK, archaic, although may have survived longer in Ireland than Britain, from Sir Robert Peel (see "Bobby").
Perp
Perpetrator/criminal instigator.
Pharaoh
Russian, old-fashioned. Allegedly refers to Tsarist city policemen and passage guards standing still and emotionlessly on their posts, paying no attention to the bustling of city around them. In older times, they were also armed with poleaxes or clubs that they were stereotypically holding like a sceptre.
Pig
This derogatory term was frequently used during the 19th century, disappeared for a while, but reappeared during the 20th and 21st century. It became frequently used again during the 1960s and 1970s in the underground and anti-establishment culture. Now prevalent in many English-speaking countries.[29] It is also used in anti-authoritarian punk and hip-hop circles. Oz magazine showed a picture of a pig dressed as a policeman on a front cover[30] and the term inspired "pig cops" in the game Duke Nukem 3D.
Pinched
To be arrested (American slang).
Plod
An allusion to Mr Plod the Policeman in Enid Blyton's Noddy stories for children, to plod meaning to walk doggedly and slowly with heavy steps.[31] Also known as "PC Plod".
Polis
Scottish slang for police, commonly used in Glasgow (not to be confused with the exaggerated US pronunciation 'po-leece').
Ponda
Slang for policemen in Kashmir region of Jammu & Kashmir, India. It is said to have derived from the British Pound sterling, insinuating that the police are susceptible to bribery.
Pony Soldier
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Po-po, Popo, Popos, PoPo
A street term for police. Originally from Southern California, where bicycle police, beginning in the 1980s, wore t-shirts marked with 'PO', for 'police officer', in block letters.[citation needed] As these officers rode in pairs, their shirts would read 'POPO' when side by side.[citation needed]
Poulet
French derogatory slang for police (literally "chicken"), similar to American English "pig".

Q[edit]

Queen's Cowboys
Canadian slang term for members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

R[edit]

Rati
Argentinean slang term for police officers derived from "rata" (rat). Also derived from vesre pronunciation of tira ("strap"), since older police uniforms would feature a leather strap across the officer's chest.[32]
Rent-a-cop
Not actually used to refer to police officers, but instead a derogatory term applied to any privately hired security guard who isn't acting as a bouncer or bodyguard.
Rollers
US, Black slang for police officers widely used on the East and West coasts during the early 1970s.
Roussin
French.[33] In the 18th century undercover detectives in high society were dressed in a reddish (roussâtre) long jacket.
Rozzers
UK, slang for police officer, first recorded in the late 19th century, in the Northumberland coastal village Seahouses formally North Sunderland. In 1898 brothers Paul Ross and John Ross were the village's local police constables and were known to locals as the 'Rosses' which was later coined as 'Rozzers' as two locals were caught rustling sheep and shouted 'It's the Rozzers, run'.

S[edit]

Shades
Garda Síochána, the police force of the Republic of Ireland. Derived from Traveller Cant, it refers to the peaked caps worn by Gardaí, which cast a shadow over their eyes.[34]
Shickalon[e]y
Garda Síochána, the police force of the Republic of Ireland. Based on a mispronunciation of Síochána.[35][36][37]
Slops
a "back-slang" formation from "police" spelled backwards - "ecilop" = "slop". Common before World War Two in the UK. Rare today.
Smokey
State police or troopers. Derived from over-the-road trucker CB radio calls, as popularized by the 1977 film Smokey And The Bandit. Not necessarily derogatory.
Sow Crate
A police car with female police officers within (see Pigs).
Stater
A state trooper, as opposed to a local county or federal police officer of the US.
Sweeney, The
UK slang term for the Flying Squad of London's Metropolitan Police Service. From Cockney rhyming slang: "Sweeney Todd" = "Flying Squad".

T[edit]

The Thin Blue Line
The role of the police in being the barrier between civilized society and chaos, inspiring a UK sitcom and two documentaries of the same name. This has led to police involved in entrapment of gays being described as "the thin blue jeans".
Thulla
ठुल्ला. A North Bharatiya slang for policemen. One theory is that it is derived from "thulla", a name used in Eastern Bharat for the jute gunny sack, which resembles the khaki uniforms worn by many police forces in the country.
Tira
A Brazilian Portuguese slang word (colloquial) for police officers, its origin cames from tira [ˈt͡ʃi.ɾa], since older police uniforms had a strap across the chest. It is usually translated as "cop".
Town Clown
Town or city police officers, contrasted with county or state police. Usually considered derogatory.[38]

V[edit]

Vics
US slang term for the police in the 1990s and 2000s referring to the Ford Crown Victoria, a car model commonly used by police departments.
Slang term used in Victoria, Australia for the Victoria Police.

W[edit]

Walloper
Australian slang for a police officer. Commonly used in the 19th to 20th centuries for the policeman on the beat, carrying a truncheon.
Whiter-than-White, The
Derisive term for a police force perceived to be predominantly full of racist white officers, British-English in origin.
Woodentop
A uniformed police officer. Derisory term used by British plain-clothes detectives.

#[edit]

12
A term to refer to multiple police officers or any other law enforcement agencies. The origin of the slang comes from the TV series Adam-12, which ran from 1968 to 1975. It is idiomatic to say "fuck 12", meaning "fuck the police", especially in hip hop music.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Babylon definition". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 14 Nov 2014. 
  2. ^ ""bobby" – Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  3. ^ http://es.thefreedictionary.com/bofia
  4. ^ "The Dictionary of Slang". The Dictionary of Slang. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "the boys in blue". The Free Dictionary. Farlex. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "Duden Dictionary of German language". 
  7. ^ "Svenska Akademiens ordbok". G3.spraakdata.gu.se. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "ex DS Roddy Llewelyn". 
  9. ^ Partridge, Eric (1972). A Dictionary of Historical Slang. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 014051046X. 
  10. ^ The Merriam-Webster new book of word histories. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster. 1991. p. 120. ISBN 9780877796039. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  11. ^ "Definition for filth – Oxford Dictionaries Online". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  12. ^ http://www.stopfeetpainfast.com/blog/post/flatfoot--a-detective-and-a-problem.html
  13. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=flat-footed
  14. ^ http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/g/flic.htm
  15. ^ Farmer and Henley's 1893 Dictionary of Slang
  16. ^ http://es.thefreedictionary.com/gura
  17. ^ Lern Yerself Scouse published by Scouse Press
  18. ^ "Sheng Kamusi. Search or translate for sheng words". Sheng.co.ke. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  19. ^ "The cosmonauts have landed: tales from an occupied Moscow". openDemocracy. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  20. ^ "Новости NEWSru.com :: Пикеты перед Останкино: ОМОН задержал около 100 человек, акция завершилась песнями и фото с "космонавтами"". Newsru.com. 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  21. ^ http://www.translationdirectory.com/glossaries/glossary086.htm
  22. ^ Фима Жиганец (1999). Жемчужины босяцкой речи (in Russian). Ростов-на-Дону: Феникс. 
  23. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2 
  24. ^ Фима Жиганец. "Почему милиционеров зовут мусорами" (in Russian). 
  25. ^ "Origins of the name "Old Bill"". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  26. ^ Juan José Marín (22 March 2010). "Francisco Calderón". Calderocomunismo.blogspot.com. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  27. ^ "'Pandu Hawaldar' gets an image makeover | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2017-02-08. 
  28. ^ http://es.thefreedictionary.com/pasma
  29. ^ Dex (31 May 2005). "Why are the police called cops, pigs, or the fuzz?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  30. ^ An Oz magazine cover with a pig dressed as a police officer.
  31. ^ "plod" in Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  32. ^ http://www.welcomeargentina.com/jujuy/museo-historico-policial.html
  33. ^ Olivier Leroy (1922). A Glossary of French Slang. World Book Company. p. 141. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  34. ^ https://books.google.ie/books?id=3SpxCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT293&dq=shades+garda&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcq9PTlKHPAhUlLMAKHR5pDukQ6AEIQjAH#v=onepage&q=shades%20garda&f=false
  35. ^ http://www.slang.ie/index.php?county=cork&entry=shickalony&letter=S
  36. ^ http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/4489
  37. ^ http://www.indymedia.ie/article/62010?author_name=Al&condense_comments=false&userlanguage=ga&save_prefs=true
  38. ^ Ayto, John (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198607636. 

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