I am looking for a verb to describe the action of a good guy becoming a bad guy. There is a word for it in my mother language, but I am not sure if there is a word for it in English.

The verb, which could be literally translated as 'become bad, turned into a bad guy'. an example would be:

He used to be a good cop, but now he___, mingles with the gangsta on the street, sad thing.

update: thanks everyone for your answers and comments. it seems a word to describe this behavior of people working in law enforcement is unanimous, but a word to describe this behavior that includes ordinary folk seems remains controversial.

  • 1
    "Flip(ped") is a common term.
    – Moab
    Jun 22, 2017 at 0:39
  • 1
    Not a verb, but tarnished.
    – Myridium
    Jun 22, 2017 at 8:27
  • 1
    Oh, the verb is debauch. cough
    – Mazura
    Jun 22, 2017 at 13:36
  • 1
    go or turn bad seems ok, though usually reserved for milk
    – user99677
    Jun 22, 2017 at 18:59
  • 2
    I'd say he fell from grace.
    – Michael
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:34

18 Answers 18


One could also use the word turned; e.g.:

He was once an honest politician, but having been exposed to the crime syndicates for so long, now he's been turned.

  • 9
    It seems to me that some construction using "turned" is the most common to express the idea. Jun 20, 2017 at 19:18
  • 3
    And if you're looking for a noun, maybe turncoat would work.
    – John Wu
    Jun 20, 2017 at 20:02
  • 4
    @StephenS I wouldn't use "Benedict Arnold" unless you don't intend for non-Americans to read your writing. Jun 20, 2017 at 21:31
  • 3
    You can also use turned as an intransitive verb--it will drop right into "but now he turned". Jun 21, 2017 at 3:03
  • 4
    "Turned" is more specific than just going from good to bad. It means that there was an organized group, opposed (in some sense) to the one the person was working for, which recruited the person away -- possibly while leaving her/him in place. So the politician was turned by the mob, or the spy was turned by an unknown intelligence agency, but a cop who turns to a life of crime hasn't been turned, just corrupted.
    – Charles
    Jun 21, 2017 at 6:27

to corrupt

  • to destroy the integrity of; cause to be dishonest, disloyal, etc., especially by bribery.
  • to lower morally; pervert
  • to alter for the worse; debase.

In your sentence it could be used as:

...but now that he was corrupted, he mingles with...

Other options include:

  • debase
  • infect
  • pervert
  • taint
  • warp
  • 3
    I think this answer is more universal to the English speaking world, where the other answers seem more USA oriented.
    – Virgo
    Jun 21, 2017 at 19:15
  • 1
    Based on my experience when reading fictions, the genre "corruption" is the exact term that describes OP's situation.
    – Andrew T.
    Jun 24, 2017 at 8:28

For a wrestling reference you could use turned heel. In professional wrestling 'good guys' are 'babyfaces' (more commonly just called 'faces'), and the 'bad guys' are heels. When a wrestler changes it's called 'turning'. Thus, a good guy going bad in wrestling is 'turning heel'.

  • 14
    This is also what they call it on TV Tropes (WARNING: destroyer of free time): Face-Heel Turn
    – Sabre
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:21

Your cop has gone rogue.

"Going rogue" commonly means defying orders or convention to the degree that one is assumed to have left the organization or movement. He might never be a good cop again.

  • 32
    I feel like going rogue has less of a "bad guy" connotation, and more of a "he pursues his goals outside of the regulations set by his organization," which could mean bad (as in "bad-guy"), but doesn't necessarily. Jun 20, 2017 at 18:06
  • 3
    This feels like a very American English expression - I'd like to see speakers of other dialects chime in on how common it is in their dialect. (We do hear it in Canadian English, but our English has a lot of AmEng terms.) Jun 20, 2017 at 19:29
  • 2
    Rogue used to describe a cop definitely conveys that the cop has become a criminal, it doesn't just mean "unconventional methods."
    – barbecue
    Jun 20, 2017 at 19:51
  • 1
    Axel Foley went rouge but he was not a "bad cop". Breaking the law doesn't make you a bad cop. Only moral bankruptcy can do that.
    – Mazura
    Jun 20, 2017 at 23:33
  • 2
    @Mazura Be careful! Rouge is an entirely different word (a shade of red, a type of makeup for the cheeks, or the single point score allowed in Canadian football) than rogue. The former is pronounced something like "roozh". Jun 21, 2017 at 13:22

Break bad: (colloquial, especially Southern US and Midwestern US, of a person) To go bad; to turn toward immorality or crime

E.g. But somehow he broke bad when he was just a yearling boy, started running around at night with a bad crowd, drinking beer and wine, and fighting and getting in all kinds of trouble and wouldn't go to school.


  • 24
    I would say that, TV series titles aside, this is likely not to be understood by many listeners.
    – Muzer
    Jun 20, 2017 at 16:57
  • 36
    Midwestern US here (raised in Chicago suburbs); I've never heard this phrase outside of that TV show's title. Before even reading Muzer's comment, when I saw this answer I was like, "Oh, so that's what that means?"
    – Izkata
    Jun 20, 2017 at 17:50
  • 4
    @DarrenRinger the phrase itself is now more widely recognized, but I don't think its usage in this sense is.
    – Kevin
    Jun 20, 2017 at 21:16
  • 2
    @Kevin But it would likely be understood, which may be all that's needed. Jun 21, 2017 at 15:34
  • 2
    @vijrox The meaning is not hard to figure out if you know a one-liner description of the point of the show. I have never watched it and didn't know the meaning of the phrase before it was used as the title of the show. Jun 21, 2017 at 19:33

Maybe this is a Midwestern thing, but I'd say something like, "He used to be a good cop, but now he's gone crooked, mingles with the gangsta on the street, sad thing."

A bit like "broke bad," but I'm guessing crooked is understood more widely.

  • 1
    I was going to suggest the same thing. He went evil, or he's gone evil. Jun 21, 2017 at 11:39
  • 1
    "It got into my hand and it went bad"
    – Mazura
    Jun 22, 2017 at 22:49
  • 3
    On a similar note, in the UK a corrupt police officer might be known as a bent copper.
    – AndFisher
    Jun 23, 2017 at 8:17

How about:

went over to the dark side

The evil and malevolent aspect of human personality or society, often referred to in a lighthearted or comic context.

  • 5
    "go over to the dark side" sounds more idiomatic to me, but +1
    – AndyT
    Jun 21, 2017 at 9:26
  • 1
    Might too jocular for the example.
    – Casey
    Jun 23, 2017 at 19:47

Perhaps your guy has fallen as in a fallen angel.

He "fell" implies one was on a good path, yet not only has stumbled, but is down (bad) and no longer upright.

  • 1
    I think fall has too many meanings for it to be properly construed in this context, absent a qualifier. "He used to be a good cop but he fell," to me, makes it sounds like he was killed. Jun 20, 2017 at 16:57
  • 2
    @Noah True. As OP asked for a verb, "fall" with context does work well with "'fall from grace", "fall off the bandwagon", "fallen angel", Like other answers, break, go, move, something more than just a verb is needed. Jun 20, 2017 at 17:29
  • 2
    I'd suggest you say that he's fallen rather than fell / fall
    – RemarkLima
    Jun 22, 2017 at 6:23
  • 1
    along these same lines: "fall from grace"
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:21
  • 1
    UV - however, term should not be fell. "He used to be a good cop, but now he has fallen, mingling with the gangsta on the street. A sad thing." Jun 24, 2017 at 11:24

Consider strayed which, in the context, implies good guy becoming a bad guy.

He used to be a good cop, but now he strayed and mingles with the gangsta on the street, sad thing.


stray verb (intransitive)

4. to deviate from certain moral standards

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Parents feel distressed by children who have strayed.

  • 1
    From all the answers in here, this seems the most appropriate one, since straying actually implies a literal deviation from a "good path", while turning can be used in both "ways" and may imply that there was a specific trigger, as Charles suggested in a comment.
    – Armfoot
    Jun 22, 2017 at 18:35
  • 1
    To me stray has a temporary feel. As in, he strayed but got back on track, for example in a marriage. As opposed to fallen, which is not sideways and reversible but downward and virtually irreversible, like with a fallen angel. Actually, the example with the children illustrates the point pretty nicely. Jun 26, 2017 at 12:28
  • 1
    @PeterA.Schneider, it is possible to stray and be lost permanently as much as it is possible to fall and get up. Jun 26, 2017 at 15:01

"Degenerate" seems the best single, non-colloquial word.

X wrote an interesting first novel, but he has degenerated since then.

The word has a different meaning when used as a verb than when used as an adjective or substantive.


He defected.

Merriam Webster:

  1. To forsake one cause, party, or nation for another often because of a change in ideology
  2. To leave one situation (such as a job) often to go over to a rival

EDIT: I should add that your word choice depends on the tone of the writing. If it's modern or casual, turned works well. If it's more formal, defected would fit better.

  • 3
    Defection would imply a change of faction, so in the example, if the good cop quit and became a gangsta then "defected" would fit. However, if he remained a cop but was simply no longer good, I'm not sure that "defected" would really apply.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 22, 2017 at 14:40
  • Defected works both ways. He was in the mafia but deflected and now works as an informant for the cops.
    – Pieter B
    Jun 24, 2017 at 11:54

debase, de·base \di-ˈbās, dē-\ transitive verb

1: to lower in status, esteem, quality, or character. debased himself by lying to his supportersMW

debase, vitiate, deprave, corrupt, debauch, pervert mean to cause deterioration or lowering in quality or character. debase implies a loss of position, worth, value, or dignity.

To debase something is to make it corrupt or impure. –vocabulary.com

He used to be a good cop, but he debased himself by mingling with the gangstas on the street.

  • 1
    Not sure if this is right - in my understanding a good person being debased remains good but kind of tainted or hurt. Not the meaning OP was asking for. Sorry, I think I must downvote. Jun 22, 2017 at 8:23
  • 1
    @FelixGoldberg - "remains good" is in the eye of the beholder after someone's character deteriorates or lowers in quality to a point which implies a loss of position, worth, value, or dignity, or having (what, in the eye of the beholder, is) corrupt or impure virtue.
    – Mazura
    Jun 22, 2017 at 13:44
  • 1
    This answer started off pretty good but now people keep debasing it. The 'worse' it becomes at this point, the more correct it is as an example unto itself.
    – Mazura
    Jun 25, 2017 at 17:21

He used to be a good cop, but now he has become corrupt and mingles with the gangsta on the street, sad thing.


If the cop turned due to too much hanging out with thugs, you could say he's gone native.

adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants, especially when dwelling in a colonial region; to become less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive, or simpler social environment.

  • 2
    "If the cop turned [...]" +1 to Jim MacKenzie
    – OhBeWise
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:57
  • @OhBeWise It seems turned is most accepted to use here, like this answer itself. btw, your reply of this answer is really refreshing.
    – user239460
    Jun 23, 2017 at 4:20
  • 1
    It's genuinely funny that I got two comments on my answer expressing support for a different answer. I voted for that answer too.
    – stannius
    Jun 23, 2017 at 14:52
  • @stannius it's not a support of that answer, it's a reply of that previous comment. i just said that it seems that word is mostly accepted here…btw, i upvoted your answer too.
    – user239460
    Jun 23, 2017 at 15:36
  • 1
    Worth noting that this phrase can have strong imperialist/colonial overtones, and should possibly be avoided in favor of other alternatives.
    – gntskn
    Jun 24, 2017 at 22:32

Dependent on context, you could go with something like succumb

fail to resist pressure, temptation, or some other negative force.

Though I guess you'd like something more idiomatic.


There is a phrase to describe this event in American professional wrestling: The heel turn. It's still possibly too esoteric for your needs, but it's definitely not got a law enforcement origin.

  • thanks for your answer, it's helpful to me as it extents the length of my knowledge about these word. btw, i am a Yahoo answer user too.
    – user239460
    Jun 25, 2017 at 14:00

If the person was previously a bad guy, then became good, and is now becoming bad again, you could say he's regressed. (Though this is sometimes a psychiatry term too.)


He used to be a good cop, but now he degenerated, mingles with the gangsta on the street, sad thing.

If he had been bad and then turned bad after being good for a while one could say he "backslid" or 'relapsed".

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