Friday, 27 June 2014

Copper - An Arresting Etymology

Two policeman guarding Buckingham Palace
"Why is we called coppers? Ooh that's a good'un, that. Lemme 'ave a fink ..."


Noun. Slang. Mid-19th century.
[from COP verb to capture, to catch + -ER.]

A police officer.

Cops and coppers are both commonly used slang terms for 'police'. But where do they come from? Various theories exist, including cop being an acronym for Constable on Patrol, and copper being a reference to the colour of the brass buttons on old police uniforms. The truth, however, is a lot simpler but no less interesting - it's derived directly from the English verb to cop, meaning 'to capture, to catch'. This, with the suffix -er added, means a copper is simply 'one that captures [the bad guys]'. Coz that's what police do. Easy.

Do please detain us with your most captivating comments below.


  1. interesting ~ thanks!
    what comes to mind is a sketch on YouTube, you might enjoy watching ...
    Find: (since I unfortunately don't know how to add a link)
    COPPER CLAPPERS on "DuMdUm ReTaRd"s channel (published Dec 29th 2012)

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