In the US we have a number of slang terms that are commonly used to refer to the police:

  • cops
  • pigs
  • five-O
  • fuzz
  • buzzkill (referring to their presence messing up the enjoyment of drugs)

I am curious as to what they are called in other countries (or more terms used in the US).
Etymology greatly appreciated

  • 50 points (and accepted answer) for whoever wants to put together an English-only list with (concise) etymologies
    – snumpy
    May 10, 2011 at 15:57
  • 1
    I just put together a list in my answer. English only. However, I think I may be lacking some etymology. May 10, 2011 at 16:19
  • @MikeVaughan Etymology is plenty for my taste... but I'd love to see a slightly more comprehensive list.
    – snumpy
    May 10, 2011 at 19:19
  • Alright, @Snumpy, I added some more slang words, and another source. I might come back to this later. Haha May 10, 2011 at 19:32
  • @Snumpy I made the list MUCH more comprehensive by adding a few examples from the wikipedia link. May 11, 2011 at 14:59

7 Answers 7


Here is a pretty comprehensive list of just what you're looking for.

It includes etymology on a lot of them, and sources for most.

-EDIT- FOR Kosmonaut

Here is a list of British only slang words for police. :)

Here are a few common, or just awesome, ones from that second link. Some of them contain some etymology.

Bear: Short for "Smokey the Bear" in reference to the hats worn by some U.S. state police being similar to that of "Smokey the Bear". "Bear bait" is a reference to speeders, who may draw the attention of the police and allow slightly slower traffic to exceed the speed limit in their wake. "Bear in the Air" is a reference to a police chopper.

Berry: Originating from blueberry, referring to the blue uniform most officers wear.

Blue Heelers: This is a term used in Australian and is after a breed of dog, the Australian Cattle Dog. This term is use because it accurately describes the personality and appearance (blue uniform) of a police officer. This term became used more frequently as it was used for the Australian police drama series Blue Heelers.

Cop or Copper: While commonly believed to be an acronym for Constable On Patrol, the term refers to "one who captures or snatches". This word first appeared in the early 18th century, and can be matched with the word "cap", which has the same meaning and whose etymology can be traced to the Latin word 'capere'. (The word retains this meaning in other contexts: teenagers "cop a feel" on a date, and they have also been known to "cop an attitude".) Variation: Copper. It is also believed that the term Copper was the original, unshortened word, popularly believed to represent the copper badges American officers used to wear at the time of origin, but in fact probably used in Britain to mean "someone who cops" long before this.

(Name of city)'s Finest: Used in either admiration, or slightly derisive irony, in the United States. In New York City, the term has been adapted to other civil servants, such as "New York's Bravest" (the Fire Department) and "New York's Boldest" (the Department of Correction).

The Gaver: Cockney slang for the police - unknown origin - London.

Mr. Plod, P.C. Plod or Plodder: a British term that arose from the Noddy books by Enid Blyton, in which Mr. Plod was the village policeman. "Plod" has also commonly been used by the British police themselves, as has its (generally disparaging) female equivalent "plonk".

Scum: Used across Britain, as an insult to say that the police are lower than the criminals.

Tyre Biters: A term typically used for country police officers because of their habit of being involved with frequent car chases. (NOTE: The spelling of this one is a strong indicator that it's British)

Wallopers: Mostly Commonwealth usage, from "wallop" meaning to hit or beat.

Woodentops: British term for uniformed police. Believed to be a reference to the 1950s children's TV series The Woodentops, very rarely in use.

Again, from that second link, and some other external sources, I find these interesting. They are related.

Bluebottle: A British term for policeman that may have derived from Cockney rhyming slang. 'Bottle' is an abbreviation of 'bottle and glass', which is rhyming slang for 'arse'. (See also Bottles).

Bottles: Cockney rhyming slang for Coppers

And my personal favorite, from Wiktionary.com

Cozzer: (slang) a policeman, especially a detective; a rozzer.

Etymology: A mixup of the words "rozzer" and "copper", both slang for british police.

Here are some of the English only one's from the first link, Wikipedia.org

Collar: American and British slang for when an officer catches or apprehends a suspect (collared/having your collar felt). Also used in bravado between officers 'good collar' meaning good arrest or stop. (Not actually slang for "police officer" but still relevant, I thought.

Constable: A police officer (male or female) in the United Kingdom and many other Commonwealth countries

Ecilop: Australia British for police reversed as seen through rear vision mirror. Motorway (freeway) patrol cars have police written backwards on the front - so it can be read normally in a rear view mirror.

The Gaver or Gavvers: Alternatively Cockney rhyming slang for the police—unknown origin—London, or a Romani language word for the police. (Rom words are used in British English and Cockney.)

Lids: A British term used in the police force to refer to uniformed officers, owing to their distinctive helmets.

Nickers: UK, uncommon British terms, being a pun on "knickers" (female underwear). As the term is spoken not written the silent "k" in knickers is not obvious. Derives from officers "nicking" a suspect, i.e. arresting them, and taking them to "the nick" i.e. the police station.

Rashers: British slang derived from pigs.

Tit-Heads or Tits: Rarely used derogative British term for uniformed police officers originating in the shape of traditional UK police custodian helmet worn by patrolling (male) officers which are or were a similar shape to a large female breast - as in the phrase (to a policeman) "take the tit off your head" meaning "relax" or "imagine you are not on duty".

According to Urban Dictionary:

The Popos: A Police officer. Especially the ones that rides on bikes. Orgin: California late 80's Police officers that patrols certain beaches on bikes wore a vest that said PO in huge blockletters on each of their chest which means Police Officer. They usually ride around in group of two's. When you see them coming by. you see the word "PO" "PO" when they stand next to each other.

I also know of 'bacon' which is a play on the slang pig/piggie. Usually used in the following while being pulled over: "I smell bacon."

  • You ruined the party, shame on you! lol :D
    – Alenanno
    May 3, 2011 at 15:11
  • 2
    This answer would be much better if it summarized the English terms from that list. This would (1) keep the answer relevant if the link dies and (2) keep the answer within the scope of this site (i.e. English language).
    – Kosmonaut
    May 3, 2011 at 15:22
  • 1
    Etymology of the most common you would have suggested might have been nice so that this answer has some substance - also, I wish I could SEE embedded links on this damn SE site without having to scan/mouse-over for/on 'here is a' and such-and-such. May 3, 2011 at 15:51
  • 1
    Wow. Your name is so fitting. May 3, 2011 at 15:54
  • 1
    I will summarize the second link when I get time. I promise. May 3, 2011 at 15:58

Don't forget "the filth" as well.


Farmer and Henley's Dictionary of Slang conveniently lists synonyms, and it suggests the following in English (it also has a comprehensive list of French, German, Spanish and Italian slang terms - what a magnificent feat of scholarship!)...

Blue, men in blue, Royal Regiment of Footguards Blue, bluebottle, bluecoat, Dogberry, charley, bobby, peeler, copper, crusher, slop, scufter, bulky, philip, cossack, philistine, frog, Johnnie Darby, pig, worm, nose, nark, dee, tec, the CTA, demon, reeler and raw lobster.

I could also add busy, miltonian and rozzer.

  • I think Peeler and Bobby are both derived from Robert Peel who was one of the founding fathers of the modern Police force in the UK.
    – thesaundi
    May 16, 2011 at 11:56

One slang word for police that I know is



I don't know if this is specific just to Maine, but we sometimes call them bubbleheads. "Watch out for the bubbleheaded man!" is a frequent warning to post-partygoers as they depart for home. I am not sure of the origin, but figured it had to do with the shape of the siren.

Also, "Stateys" for State Troopers.


"The Feds" and "Men in Black" are general term applied to federal police officers (FBI, ATF, TSA, ICE). The latter one, "ICE," has a number of unpleasant nicknames among immigrant and illegal immigrant populations, but none come to mind.


When I was a lad in rural Lincolnshire (UK) in the 1980s you would often hear the Police described as "The Bizzies". I assumed at the time this was derived from "busy" or "business". I've never heard this term used since. I'm interested to know if this is highly regionalised or more related to the era.

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