Cops: A police slang term explained

Typical cop of the 1800’s

The thing about misinformation is that as long as no one bothers to actually look into the validity of something told to them, the erroneous information simply gets passed on to the next person.  Such is the case with the history of the word “cop” that is often used to denote “police”.  It is widely believed that cop was an acronym for “constable on patrol” or even “citizen on patrol”.  This is not the case.  Beginning in England in the 1800’s the word cop referred to the verb “to seize or take” (most likely derived from the Latin word capere which is “to seize” or “to take”).  If you were being arrested you were effectively being seized and most likely taken away.  Therefore those who were doing the seizing eventually took on the moniker of “cop”.  Today, you can also see the word cop being used in a non-police way in such phrases like “to cop a feel” or to “cop an attitude”.

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