Why Is a Police Officer Called a Cop?
The Word 'Cops'
If you have talked to anyone who has ever had dealings with the police, you have probably heard them use the word "cop" instead of saying policeman or police officer. The word is used so often these days that everyone knows who a cop refers to.
If you have seen "Law & Order" or any of the other criminal series on television, the word cop comes up quite often.
People know about the word, but they don't know the origin of the word. So, why do people call police officers cops?
Names Used for a Police Officer
A police officer might be called a policeman, policewoman, police agent, or cop. In most countries, "police officer" is the generic term no matter what rank the person has.
Most people are familiar with the terms even though some of them are negative ones.
Cop is Not about Copper Badges or Buttons
Some people have theorized that police officers are called cops because the copper badges police officers carry. While that might sound reasonable, it can't be right because today most of the badges aren't made of copper at all. Instead, their badges are usually silver.
Another theory referred to the small piece of copper metal the officers would carry in the palm of their hand. This usage of "copper" got shortened to "cop." The first documented use of the term copper for a police officer was in 1846.
When the term "copper" was originally used in England, it was used as a slang word for a police officer. It was used to refer to the abuse by criminals. It was considered highly derogatory by the police themselves. The word is so derogatory in England that it has become illegal to use it.
The word "cop" is a slang word and is considered impolite for that term to be used. Usually, it is the criminal or the bad boys who fear being caught by the police that called police officers cops. Today, police themselves have accepted and use the word for themselves.
The term copper was the original, unshortened word, originally used in Britain to mean "someone who captures."
There is a common mistake that the word "cop" comes from the copper buttons on the uniforms police officers wear.
A more reasonable theory is because the word "cop" comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb for "catch, grab or capture." It comes from the noun dating back to the 1100s.
Some sources document the use of the verb "cop" used with the meaning "arrest." In 1844, the word had come to refer to a law officer.
Acceptable Origin of the Word "Cop"
The word "cop" doesn’t refer to the metal various police badges or shields that police carry. Neither does it refer to a copper pipe they carry in their hands.
In 1844, “cop” was a verb meaning “to take, to seize, to arrest or to take into police custody." It is another noun for the police doing these things. In 1846, police used to be referred to as "coppers." By 1859, the word was shortened from "copper" to "cop" that's still in existence today.
Other Names for a Police Officer
Many slang words are used for the police. A lot of them are considered derogatory or offensive. "Cop" is the most common one and is the most acceptable. It is often used by the police themselves, but are mostly used by criminals, prisoners, or by the general public.
There are other derogatory names for a police officer. The word "pig" is one of the worst. It is negative, demeaning and derogatory with its origin dating back to the 19th century.
The Word "Policemen" Shouldn't Be Used
Because there are so many females on the police force, the words "policeman" or "policemen" are no longer acceptable. The word "police" can be either masculine or feminine.
Also, the word "police" can be either singular or plural. It takes a plural verb, such as "The police are coming."