According to a dictionary search for "trespasses":

  • v. Enter the owner's land or property without permission
  • n. A voluntary wrongful act against the person or property of another, esp. unlawful entry to a person's land or property without their permission

Yet this article uses the headline:

Criminal Trespasses Police Officers

and goes on to say:

The entire police force has in effect been trespassed from a Wellington property.

Is this actually a legitimate use of the word "trespass" or "trespassed"?

  • Police reports are almost always a bit strange. Don't keep them as examples of style! – user19148 Jun 20 '12 at 21:03
  • @Carlo_R.: It's not from a police report. It's from the headline and content of a newspaper article. But your second point still holds at least for headlines. – Mitch Jun 21 '12 at 23:23
  • An unofficial definition of "to trespass". To obtain a trespass warning citation against someone. "I can't go back to that bar 'cause I got trespassed last week." – TecBrat Jun 22 '12 at 0:24

No. This is an example of illiterate newspaperese. I assume it is meant to be short for "being charged with tresspassing."

  • 3
    It is not short for "being charged with trespassing." The bartender can not charge a patron with trespassing no matter how obnoxious s/he is. But the bartender can tell a patron that their implied permission to enter has been revoked. If s/he returns after being tresspassed, then s/he can be charged with trespassing. – emory Jun 21 '12 at 1:16
  • @emory Your s/he stuff is silly. The only one you did right was that one time you slipped up and used the natural their. – tchrist Jun 22 '12 at 0:42

I don't know about "legitimate", but it's not unique to this article. A Google search for "trespassed him" finds examples such as:

Deputies inside the courtroom trespassed him from the courtroom and notified Perry, court spokeswoman Karen Levey said. —Orlando [Florida, U.S.A.] Sentinel, June 2012

A drunken man was talking to himself inside a coffee shop and acting rude to customers, according to a report. Police trespassed him from the property for a year. —Sarasota [Florida, U.S.A.] Observer, March 2012

He refused to leave when asked and police trespassed him from the store. —Savage [Minnesota, U.S.A.] Pacer, June 2012

I would have fired that guy right there on the spot , and trespassed him right off the property- […] —some Netizen posting under the name "Old Gobbler" with a signature suggesting that he lives in or near Osceola, Florida, U.S.A.; June 2011

That customer broke up the fight, after which the manager fired the employee and trespassed him from the eatery. —Columbia [South Carolina, U.S.A.] Star, May 2012

In these contexts, it seems to mean either "to escort out of" or "to bar from", with the added implication that failure to comply would constitute trespassing.

  • 2
    Sounds like police talk. I'd be curious to know what countries or continents these examples came from. – JAM Jun 20 '12 at 21:57
  • @JAM: I didn't put any effort into creating a good random sampling, so don't read too much into this, but — four are definitely from the United States, and the fifth appears to be as well. Two are from police blotters, and a third might be as well. (A fourth is from a regular newspaper article, and the fifth is from an online forum posting.) I've added some source information to the answer itself, so you can check out the details for yourself. (But again: this wasn't a good random sample!) – ruakh Jun 21 '12 at 13:55
  • As noted in my answer, "trespass" is being used as a synonym for "86" -- in each of these cases, the latter could be substituted for the former. – Jim Balter Jun 21 '12 at 21:07
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    Your analysis seems confirmed by looking at the original article and by a google search for 'been trespassed from'. That is, the title 'Criminal trespasses police officers' is a 'man bites dog' headline, because normally (in the strange usage of 'trespasses') the police officers are usually the ones 'putting a restraining order on' criminals, but the article describes the more interesting other direction. None of the online dictionaries give a definition that fits this usage, but multiple google hits are consistent with this meaning. – Mitch Jun 21 '12 at 23:59

"Trespass" is being used as a synonym for "ban" or for "86" -- meaning (following Wikipedia or MW) to refuse to serve, to get rid of, or to throw out.

So the headline 'Criminal trespasses police officers' could be read as

Criminal bans police officers


The entire police force has in effect been banned from a Wellington property.

As for your final question, whether it's "legitimate" depends on whether you're a descriptivist or a prescriptivist, and if the latter, what your standard is. One could argue either that the lack of entries in dictionaries makes it illegitimate, or that repeated occurrences of this usage, found via web search, makes this a new usage that will eventually be stamped with legitimacy by lexicographers adding it to dictionaries.

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    86? what does -that- mean? – Mitch Jun 21 '12 at 12:51
  • @Mitch You're kidding, right? If not, use google. – Jim Balter Jun 21 '12 at 17:36
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    Answers here are expected to be somewhat self-explanatory. If the OP didn't know 'trespass' and had to ask a question about it, then surely they would also have to ask a question about '86'. Also, it is not clear to me how '86' is the same. If you gave some more explanation about what '86' and trespassing have to do with each other and why descriptivism/prescriptivism is relevant, that would make this a useful answer. – Mitch Jun 21 '12 at 20:06
  • If you were asking me to clarify my answer then you should have said so. "then surely" -- No, that does not follow at all. This is a peculiar use of "trespass", whereas the meaning of "86" is immediately discernible by googling it. "it is not clear to me how '86' is the same" -- Well, I'm sorry, but I said precisely how it is the same -- they are being used as synonyms: "Criminal Trespasses Officers" -> "Criminal 86's Officers". "that would make this a useful answer" -- It was a useful answer. – Jim Balter Jun 21 '12 at 20:54
  • 1
    I edited your question to preserve exactly what you intend but also to save people the time (and annoyance of linkrot), but also with links to confirm. I hope that preserved what you intended and also shows people exactly that without having to do the research themselves. No they can compare what you say with the original newspaper article to confirm for themselves. – Mitch Jun 21 '12 at 23:47

I wrote a column about just this question over at Visual Thesaurus, with a tip of the hat to ruakh's answer. As I write there, the earliest attestation I found is from 1990; also, this usage seems to be popular in New Zealand, the source of the OP's newspaper headline.

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