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.
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 hats).
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, derogatory, slang for a police helicopter.
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.
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.
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".
Booze Bus 
Australian slang term referring to a police roadside random breath testing station.
Boys in blue 
In reference to the blue uniform.[3]
Bronze 
Slang term for the police.
Bull 
A slang term for railroad police in the US, most prevalent in the first half of the 20th century.
Bulle 
(German for "the bull"). German slang for police officer, often derogatory. Plural "Bullen" refers to the police and "Bullerei" for police station.[4]
Byling 
Old Swedish slang for patrolling officers. The word means peeler in Swedish and it is rarely used nowadays.[5]

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[6]
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.
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').[7] 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.
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 confined mostly to Victoria and Western Australia.
Donut Patrol 
Slang referring 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.
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.[8] 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. 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 backup, particularly during war when established police officers would often join up (or be forced to).[9] 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.[10]
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.[11]
Fuzz 
First appeared in the 1920s,[12] corruption of "force" (see above)[specify]. The term was used in the title of Hot Fuzz, a 2007 police-comedy film.

G[edit]

Ghetto Bird 
US, derogatory, slang for a police helicopter.
Grass 
Cockney (English) for a police informant: Grasshopper = Copper.[13] 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]

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.
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, source is the sheng language (mashup of English and Kiswahili).[14]
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 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".[15]
Kollegen mat den Rallysträifen
Luxembourgish, literally "colleagues / fellows with the rallye stripes". A reference to police officers with their police cars, which have in Luxembourg three stripes on the bonnet and on each side of the car, 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 OMON policeman equipped with riot gear (literally "cosmonaut").[16][17]

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 film "Haywire" 2011.
Local Yokel 
A reference to city or town police forces, almost solely used in conjunction with "County Mountie". Mildly derogatory.

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 1960s and 1970s by anti-establishment groups.[18]
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.
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]
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.[19]
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.[20] 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.
Occifer 
A slang 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.[21]
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.
Parak
A slang term used for policemen in the Philippines.
Pasma
Derogatory term used in Spain to refer to the Police in general.[22]
Peeler, Peelers 
UK, slang, archaic,including Northern Ireland, from Sir Robert Peel (see "Bobby").
Perp 
Meaning perpetrator/criminal instigator.
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.[23] 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[24] and the term inspired "pig cops" in the game Duke Nukem 3D.
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.[25] Also known as "PC Plod".
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]
Polis 
Scottish slang for police, commonly used in Glasgow (not to be confused with the exaggerated US pronunciation 'po-leece'). [26]
Poulet 
French derogatory slang for police (literally "chicken"), similar to American English "pig".

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.[27]
Rollers
US, Black slang for police officers widely used on the East and West coasts during the early 1970s.
Roussin 
French[28] In the 18th century undercover detective in high society were dressed in reddish (roussâtre) long jacket.
Rozzers 
Possibly from "Robert", after Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), commonly considered the father of modern policing, who established the Metropolitan Police Force in London (1829).[citation needed]

S[edit]

Scum 
British derogatory term for the police.
Slops
a "back-slang" formation from "police" spelt 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. Not necessarily derogatory.
Sow Crate 
A police car with female police officers within (see Pigs).
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.
The Man
This is a Bahamian slang word that came from a movie called The Man (2005). This is one of the most used slang words in The Bahamas.
Town Clown
Town or city police officers, contrasted with county or state police. Usually considered derogatory.[29]
Twelve
Refers to police officers in general, usually in a derogatory manner. Popularized in hip hop music, specifically the song "Fuck 12" by Migos.

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.

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. ^ "the boys in blue". The Free Dictionary. Farlex. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Duden Dictionary of German language". 
  5. ^ "Svenska Akademiens ordbok". G3.spraakdata.gu.se. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "ex DS Roddy Llewelyn". 
  7. ^ Partridge, Eric (1972). A Dictionary of Historical Slang. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 014051046X. 
  8. ^ "Definition for filth – Oxford Dictionaries Online". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.stopfeetpainfast.com/blog/post/flatfoot--a-detective-and-a-problem.html
  10. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=flat-footed
  11. ^ http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/g/flic.htm
  12. ^ ""fuzz" – Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  13. ^ Farmer and Henley's 1893 Dictionary of Slang
  14. ^ "Sheng Kamusi. Search or translate for sheng words". Sheng.co.ke. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  15. ^ http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/keuf
  16. ^ "The cosmonauts have landed: tales from an occupied Moscow". openDemocracy. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  17. ^ "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. 
  18. ^ http://www.translationdirectory.com/glossaries/glossary086.htm
  19. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2 
  20. ^ "Origins of the name "Old Bill"". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  21. ^ Juan José Marín (22 March 2010). "Francisco Calderón". Calderocomunismo.blogspot.com. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  22. ^ http://es.thefreedictionary.com/pasma
  23. ^ Dex (31 May 2005). "Why are the police called cops, pigs, or the fuzz?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  24. ^ An Oz magazine cover with a pig dressed as a police officer.
  25. ^ "plod" in Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. April 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ http://www.welcomeargentina.com/jujuy/museo-historico-policial.html
  28. ^ Olivier Leroy (1922). A Glossary of French Slang. World Book Company. p. 141. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  29. ^ Ayto, John (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198607636. 


External links[edit]