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 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 multiple officers.
Bears 
A slabs term for the police.
Bill 
Also Old Bill. The Bill is the title of a television police series in the UK, based in a fictional London borough.
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"
Boys in blue 
in reference to the blue uniform.[citation needed]
Bulle 
(German for "the bull"). German slang for police officer, often derogatory. Plural "Bullen" refers to the police and "Bullerei" for police station [3]
Byling 
Old Swedish slang for patrolling officers. The word is of uncertain origins and rarely used nowadays.[4]

C[edit]

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[5]
Cop Shop 
Australian (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').[6] The common myth is that it's a term referring to the police officer's buttons which are made of copper.
Cop derives from a Gaelic word which has the equivalence of saying, protector, leader, or chief. The terms are almost nearly homophonic but have similar meanings.[citation needed]
County Mountie
Used specifically in reference to county police officers or county sheriff's deputies in the United States.

D[edit]

Dicks 
Slang for detectives. Apparently originally coined in Canada and brought south by rumrunners during Prohibition. The fictional comic strip character Dick Tracy was given the first name of "Dick" in token of its being a slang expression for "detective".

F[edit]

Feds 
Usually used in the United States to refer to higher federal law enforcement agencies, especially the F.B.I., recently caught on in Great Britain owing to the spread of American media. Also widely used in Australia as a slang term for Australian Federal Police.
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.
Filth 
Normally "The Filth", UK, the police. Inspiration for the Irvine Welsh novel Filth[7] 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 occasionally used in East Coast America and the UK. Is sometimes shouted out as a warning by lookouts or others engaged in illegal activity when a police officer is spotted. Popularized by the series The Wire.
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 back-up, particularly during war when established police officers would often join up (or be forced to).[8] 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.[9]
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.[10]
Fuzz 
First appeared in the 1920s,[11] corruption of "force" (see above)[specify]. The term was used in the title of Hot Fuzz, a 2007 police-comedy film.

G[edit]

Grass 
Cockney (English) for a police informant: Grasshopper = Copper.[12] Alternative suggestions are from "Narc in the Park", or the song "Whispering Grass".
Gumshoe 
US, derogatory, slang for detectives, who are ostensibly wearing soft-heeled shoes or Hush Puppy shoes so they can follow suspects without being noticed.[citation needed]

J[edit]

Jam sandwich
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.

K[edit]

Karao
Used in Kenya to refer to police; Seen as derogatory, source is the sheng language (mashup of English and Kiswahili)[13]
Keuf
French word, 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 derrived 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".[14]
Kosmonavt 
Russian, referring to OMON policeman equipped with riot gear (literally "cosmonaut").[15][16]

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]

M[edit]

Man, The  
Derogatory. Police officer or other Government agent who has control, either by force or circumstance. Widely used in United States, especially among African Americans and prisoners. popular during the 1960's and 1970's by antiestablishment groups.[17]
Maréchaussée 
The police force that preceded the Gendarmerie as the law enforcement agency in rural France. The Marechaussee was under the control of the Marechal (eng: Marshal) de France, hence the name. In the Netherlands, the koninlijke 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]
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.[18]
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.[19] 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 you look at the police one time, so not to attract attention.
Ost 
Danish for "cheese". Used in Denmark, primarily Copenhagen, to mean police - a single officer can be a " cheese", police nearby can mean it "smells like cheese" and a police car can be a "cheese platter". Originally used during police raids on Freetown Christiania after shouting "police!" came to be considered an offence.

P[edit]

Paco 
A derogatory Chilean term for Carabineros, 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.[20]
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.
Peeler, Peelers 
UK, slang, archaic, except possibly in Northern Ireland, from Sir Robert Peel (see "Bobby").
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.[21] 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.[22]
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.[23] Also known as "PC Plod".
Po-po, Popo, Popos, PoPo 
A street term for police. Originally from Southern California Asian gangs, now nationwide and thought to be of African-American derivation. Urban Dictionary says the term was derived from beach bike officer’s shirts, which read PO for "police officer". Popo is also "grandmother" in Chinese American slang.[24]

R[edit]

Rati
Argentinean slang term for police officers derived from "rata" (rat). Also derived from vesre pronunciation of tira, since older police uniforms would feature a leather strap across the officer's chest.[25]
Roussin 
French[26] In the 18th century undercover detective in high society were dressed in reddish (roussâtre) long jacket.
Rozzers 
From "Robert", after Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), commonly considered the father of modern policing, and who established the Metropolitan Police Force in London (1829).[citation needed]

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.
Town Clown 
Town or city police officers, contrasted with county or state police. Usually considered derogatory.[27]

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. ^ "Duden Dictionary of German language". 
  4. ^ "Svenska Akademiens ordbok". G3.spraakdata.gu.se. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "ex DS Roddy Llewelyn". 
  6. ^ Partridge, Eric (1972). A Dictionary of Historical Slang. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 014051046X. 
  7. ^ "Definition for filth – Oxford Dictionaries Online". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  8. ^ http://www.stopfeetpainfast.com/blog/post/flatfoot--a-detective-and-a-problem.html
  9. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=flat-footed
  10. ^ http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/g/flic.htm
  11. ^ ""fuzz" – Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  12. ^ Farmer and Henley's 1893 Dictionary of Slang
  13. ^ "Sheng Kamusi. Search or translate for sheng words". Sheng.co.ke. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  14. ^ http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/keuf
  15. ^ "The cosmonauts have landed: tales from an occupied Moscow". openDemocracy. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ http://www.translationdirectory.com/glossaries/glossary086.htm
  18. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2 
  19. ^ "Origins of the name "Old Bill"". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Juan José Marín (22 March 2010). "Francisco Calderón". Calderocomunismo.blogspot.com. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Dex (31 May 2005). "Why are the police called cops, pigs, or the fuzz?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  22. ^ An Oz magazine cover with a pig dressed as a police officer.[dead link]
  23. ^ "plod" in Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  24. ^ "Cop Slang" in PoliceMag.com". PoliceMag.com. March 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  25. ^ http://www.welcomeargentina.com/jujuy/museo-historico-policial.html
  26. ^ Olivier Leroy (1922). A Glossary of French Slang. World Book Company. p. 141. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  27. ^ Ayto, John (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198607636. 

External links[edit]