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, 2012 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, 2012 at 23:23
  • 1
    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, 2012 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


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, 2012 at 21:57
  • 1
    @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, 2012 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, 2012 at 21:07
  • 3
    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, 2012 at 23:59
  • See visualthesaurus.com/cm/dictionary/… :-)
    – Jim Balter
    Aug 11, 2020 at 0:16

Notice that the cited article is from New Zealand where this usage is apparently common. There, to "trespass" someone is to serve them a notice that you want them to leave your property ... if they remain, or return, then they will have committed criminal trespass (https://www.police.govt.nz/advice-services/personal-and-community-safety/trespass-notices).

Note that this usage is similar to saying that someone has been banned or "86ed"--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.

  • 2
    86? what does -that- mean?
    – Mitch
    Jun 21, 2012 at 12:51
  • @Mitch You're kidding, right? If not, use google.
    – Jim Balter
    Jun 21, 2012 at 17:36
  • 3
    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, 2012 at 20:06
  • Also, how descriptivism/prescriptivism is relevant follows directly from what they are. My answer is more accurate and informative than to declare this as "an example of illiterate newspaperese", which itself is somewhat illiterate, as certainly is "tresspassing [sic]", and giving an obviously wrong interpretation, yet that "answer" got 9 votes and no criticism from you. Feh.
    – Jim Balter
    Jun 21, 2012 at 21:03
  • 2
    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, 2012 at 23:47

"Trespassed" is a term used in New Zealand in reference to delivering a "Trespass Notice" to someone. A trespass notice does not mean that the person has actually been trespassing on the property, but instead is a notice that if they do not leave the property and/or if they return to the property in the future then they will be trespassing on that future occasion.

Once the trespass notice has been delivered to the person (verbally or in writing, either by the property owner/representative or the police) they are deemed to have been "trespassed" from that property under whatever the terms of the notice are.


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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