Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Cop

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 18, 2010

Movie and television scripted criminals have invested countless hours into getting away from the “cops.”  How did police officers come to be known as cops in the first place?

Undoubtedly, some of you have heard the urban myth that cop stands for Constable On Patrol.  As plausible as that story sounds, there’s absolutely no fact to that claim.

The word cop first appeared in English in 1695, meaning “to catch.”  It was an off-shoot of the Middle French word caper meaning “seize, to take” and the French word came from the Latin word capere meaning “to take.”

The slang term cop was originally used among thieves in the U.K. with a “copper” being the common, garden variety street thief. Irony turned the tables on the word copper when in 1846 when criminals apprehended by the police were said to have themselves been copped — in other words, caught — by the coppers.  

In 1853, the New York City police adopted full uniforms.  Up until that time, police in major cities in America such as New York and Chicago, were identified by eight-pointed star shaped copper badges over their left breasts instead of a complete uniform identifying them as star police, coppers and cops from the early 1800s onward.

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One Response to “Cop”

  1. Another cool post . Way to go Elyse you rock when it comes to words. That is all I can speak to. So what is the transition to cop out?

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