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I’m a teenager from Chicago. One slang term which is used by young people in my community rather often is “opp.” It is clearly derived from the stem “oppose,” and is basically short for opposition or opponent. Generally, this term, which is often pluralized as “opps,” refers to people with whom one is not on good terms. They are people you have beef with (another slang construction, which I think is more widespread) and with which you’d prefer not to interact. The word is usually used in an only semi-serious way, so someone who is actually harassing you wouldn’t normally be called an opp.

Today I read on a very unreliable source that the term actually originated from Chicago - or, at least, is most widespread there. I was unaware of this, and I am not sure if it is true.

Thus, I am wondering: where is this term used, and do most young Americans understand what it means? What is its distribution across different dialects? I would also appreciate if anyone had insight into its community or time of origin.

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  • It appears in this list of slang terms from the UK Parents Against Child Exploitation, so it is definitely more widespread than just Chicago (or even the U.S.). Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 17:36
  • "Opps" is a more or less standard term in Contract Bridge, to refer to one's opponents at the table. When I join a bridge table on the Internet, I always say "Hi opps". This usage has been around at least as long as I have been playing bridge, that is to say 45 years.
    – TonyK
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 22:24
  • It's commonly used/understood in the UK, by most Gen Z kids and a good portion of millennials. And while the vast majority of middle-class kids might use it ironically, there are definitely kids for whom it's very much not ironic - in many parts of the UK, running into the ops when you're not with your boys is very likely to get you stabbed.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 0:05

1 Answer 1

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According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang the term is from US black origin, probably made popular by rappers. Note that a couple of usage examples are from UK, suggesting the expression is used also in BrE:

opp n. also opper [SE opponent / opposition] (US black gang) a member of a rival gang; thus attrib.

  • 2013 [US] Chief Keef ‘Macaroni Time’ 🎵 No love - I see a opp I’m droppin’ him right now.

  • 2013 Stix & M. Dargg ‘It’s Cracking’ 🎵 Fuck the opps, we be on the block / With anything that’s clapping.

  • 2016 67 ‘Every Year’ 🎵 All these oppers that’s fucking with gang / Only fucking with gang ’cause we real.

  • 2016 [US] F. Stuart ‘Dispatches from the Rap Wars’ in chicagomag.com 🌐 He’s constantly threatening rival gang members and writing lyrics about shooting at these ‘opps.

  • 2016 [UK] Skepta ‘Lyrics’ 🎵 I’m the boss these pagans wanna touch / I’m the kind of boss that the opps gotta rush.

  • 2020 [UK] G. Krauze What They Was 66: Dafuck are you walking away for? Moving like you’re some op.

The earliest known use of the abbreviation "opp" stems from a song by Chicago-based drill artist Chief Keef, in his 2011 track "John Madden," in which he says, "Better stop, fuck nigga we don't fuck with opps (Nah)."

The first lyrical mention came in 2011 on Chicago rapper Chief Keef’s “John Madden.” From 2012 to 2014, “opp” was used almost exclusively by Windy City rappers, many of whom died in Chicago’s ongoing gang crisis. For artists like Lil JoJo, the “opps” were people in their own neighborhoods—not just haters on the internet.

So while Chicago isn’t the only music scene filled with violence, the term become a reflection of a culture with real life consequences.

(Genius.com)

Dictionary.com notes that:

Not an acronym but commonly used, OPP can also stand for opposition, or enemy, and is often used in street and gang culture.

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  • The mainstream dictionary entries seem to be either for "opp" meaning "opportunity" (as in "business opp", "job opp"), or as an abbreviation for terms such as "opposite" or "opus". So I think the hip-hop slang is probably a separate coinage.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 8:59
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    Interesting. We've been using "opps" as an abbreviation for "opponents" in online bridge (card game) sites for decades. There's no animus implied, it's often part of a greeting ("Hi, opps") when arriving at a table.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 14:37
  • I wonder if "opp" in this context may derive from military slang "opfor", "opposing force", meaning a unit in an exercise that's portraying an enemy unit (also known during the cold war as Red Team, i.e. simulated Russians). Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 16:09
  • This speaks to the origin of the term, but doesn't answer any of the other questions (including question in the title). (Where it's used, distribution, where it's understood.) Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 17:26
  • @GentlePurpleRain - actually the dictionary.com entry defines the expression as “commonly used” but adds not other details.
    – Gio
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 18:34

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