Could you give me an example sentence where this verb means this. I can't find anywhere. I don't know if this verb can take a direct object like "neck" or something like that, because if we take a look at other meaning of the verb "to stop somebody in order to talk to them", I think that these sentences that I made up are ambiguous.

  1. He collared him and started talking to him.

  2. He collared her in her room when she was about to get out.

I think that this sentences can be umbiguous, because I think that they can mean both. I hope you understand my question.

  • Your question's title reminds me of the term horse-collar, which, in American football, means "to grab a runner inside the back of his shoulder pads and jerk him to the ground." I hope the subject of your sentences wasn't behaving that violently. :^)
    – J.R.
    Mar 28, 2013 at 9:19

4 Answers 4


Collar may mean ‘put a collar on’—on a wild animal for instance, to track its movements—but it usually means ‘arrest’ or ‘seize’, and is said of the action of police or similar officers. The underlying sense is, as you say, to “grab or seize by the collar or neck”, but this is applied figuratively. Here are a couple of instances:

Doral security noticed something amiss with the man's credentials and collared him. —New York Daily News

I pursued him and never lost sight of him; I came up to him and collared him. —Trial of Joseph Pearce, Old Bailey Proceedings, 1810

This meaning is sometimes jocularly extended from the apprehension of criminals to other seizures. In the first half of the 20th century it was often used to mean ‘take’ or ‘filch’: H.L. Mencken, for instance, writes of appropriating an artwork created for a magazine where he worked:

I liked it so much that I collared the painting, which was in oils, had it framed, and hung it in my house on Hollins Street.

Collar is also frequently used today in the sense you ask about: to ‘arrest’ or ‘detain’ not in a law-enforcement sense but in order to compel attention or conversation:

I took it over to the local Apple store where I collared the first guy I saw and showed him the wire. He apologized that I had a problem, handed me a boxed new one off the shelf, and sent me on my way.

I collared the program's director and congratulated him on the quality of work.


Your sentences are ambiguous, but they're still correct, at least in British English. I don't know how well the idiom will be understood in other locales.

Whether the figurative meaning or (less likely) the literal meaning is intended would usually be inferred from context.

Your examples both use the second sense given here

  1. to catch and hold someone so that they cannot escape:

    She was collared by the police at the airport.

  2. to find someone and stop them going somewhere, often so that you can talk to them about something:

    I was collared by Pete as I was coming out of the meeting this morning.

Note that even in the specific sense of arresting someone, you don't need to physically touch their collar for the word to be used.


The, in my mind, better idiom you can use for this situation is cornered:

He cornered him and started talking.
He cornered her in her room when she was about to get out.

To collar somone is something a policeman does, when he apprehends a criminal by grabbing the suspect’s collar and seems to be idiomatic British English.

  • 2
    You don't have to physically grab someone's collar to metaphorically collar them, and OP's usages are valid in idiomatic British English.
    – Useless
    Mar 28, 2013 at 9:32
  • Ok. Never heard it except about criminals. I am sure more would understand cornered than collared
    – mplungjan
    Mar 28, 2013 at 9:41

I have seen police especially in India and Sri Lanka grab suspects by the shirt collar which is very humiliating but the American cops never treat suspects like that. Holding suspects by collar or belt is mean.

  • Rufus, have you taken the site tour? If so, you may have noticed that we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage. Unfortunately, your answer does not address the question asked, which is about the use of language. Because your answer is not appropriate, it may be downvoted, Sorry. (On this site, in future, you should only comment on usage of the English language).
    – Margana
    Jun 14, 2015 at 15:03

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