If you’ve listened to English for long enough, you’ve probably heard the word “cop” before. It can have a couple of different meanings, though. We’ll take a look at these differing definitions with some explanations and some dialogue using our old trusty friend, Charles. Let’s read along!
Like I said, Cop can have a number of meanings in English slang. The most common meaning is a “police officer.” This use is used a lot by people all over the world and is not seen as particularly informal or rude to say. Copper is a more old-fashioned or silly way to say this, but it means the same thing. Don’t confuse it with the metal, copper, though.
Jonah was rustling through his carry-on bag as the airplane gates closed. In his movements he disturbed Charles a bit, knocking him with his elbows. Other passengers were looking at him suspiciously.
Charles — What are you doing, man? You lose something? You keep hitting me with your arms, making everybody nervous.
Jonah — Oh, my fault. I’m just checking here. Gotta make sure I don’t have any weapons on me.
Charles — What are you talking about? Security already checked all that.
Jonah — Didn’t you hear the flight attendant? They said the cops are coming on the plane to search for some criminal.
- The police are coming.
Charles — Well, it isn’t you. I hope …
Some police officers stepped onto the plane. Jonah started to panic.
Jonah — Oh, shoot! It’s the coppers. Put your head down!
- It’s the police (in a silly or sarcastic tone).
To Cop (v)
“Cop” has a different meaning when used as a verb. To Cop can mean to get or obtain something, usually from buying it. In this way, it’s normally used as “cop something,” as in, some object or item.
Read more: Cop
Some of the nearby passengers gave Jonah a weird look. He was seriously being overly dramatic.
Charles — Calm down! Why in the world are you so scared for? You’re just going to call more attention to yourself.
Jonah — Nah, they’re probably gonna try to arrest me. I got all this cash on me. And look at my watch! It’s way too fancy to go with this face.
He pointed at himself in the face. This made Charles laugh.
Charles — You’re crazy. Where’d you get that watch from anyway? It’s nice.
Jonah — Oh, this old thing? I copped it from that rapper you went to see over on the east side.
- I bought it, he gave it to me, I received it in some way.
Charles — Really? You know Lil B Dowry?
Cop out (v)
Another use is as a phrasal verb, combined to make it “cop out.” This is when someone doesn’t stay true to who they are. It is mostly used when someone becomes rich, famous, successful, or just has their reputation threatened. These situations can make a person do things that are not like them, act in a “bad” character, or with poor morals. In a similar way, to Cop out can also be when someone falls back on something they promised to do. This usually isn’t malicious or intentional, but it is a way for the person to escape responsibility or not admit to doing something. It often is when the person is afraid to face the consequences of their actions.
Jonah — Yeah, I know him. He’s a cool dude. He gave me this watch, afterall.
Charles — I thought he lived in a much nicer part of town. He’s a smart guy and he’s always dressed up nice.
Jonah — Well, I’m not surprised. Most of these rappers come from neighborhoods like that. Then they all cop out and forget who their friends are. Sad.
- They all forget where they came from, stop caring about their friends, change their character.
At this moment, the police were finishing their search and were leaving the airplane. Jonah hadn’t noticed.
Charles — I’m sure he won’t do that. Lil B seems pretty down-to-earth. I can’t see him turning his back on people like that.
Jonah — I’m just saying, he wouldn’t be the first artist from the hood who says he’s gonna help out his block only to get rich and then cop out on everybody. Anyway, let me finish hiding my watch …
- And then turn his back on everybody, then forget about everybody, then not do what he promised to do.
Charles — For what? The police left already. You’re a free man.
Jonah gave a big smile and jerked his knee, accidentally kicking the seat in front of him.
Cop-out can also be a noun. In this case, it is describing a person who has “copped out,” or gone back on their promise, done things that don’t fit their character. A similar expression in English is a “sell-out.” A sell-out (person) can sell out (action) and do things that go against their morals just for fame, wealth, success, or other reasons. It’s essentially the same idea as “cop-out.” A Cop-out can also be the excuse itself used by a person to escape consequences.
Passenger — Excuse me! Can you stop kicking my chair?
Jonah — So sorry, sir. Won’t happen again.
Then he turned to Charles.
Jonah — Now we’re home-free! And it’s a good thing because I was totally gonna cop out and say you stole whatever they were looking for.
- I was totally going to take the easy way out, was going to lie so I wouldn’t get in trouble, run away from the consequences.
Charles — Gee, thanks. I’m sure that cop-out would’ve worked.
- I’m sure that lie would’ve worked, that bad excuse.
Jonah — Welp, are you ready for this trip? It’s your first time out of the state, right?
Charles — Yeah, kinda. I always get nervous on planes. It’ll be nice to see another part of the country, though.
The engines revved up and the plane started to move. Habitually, Charles started to pray and kissed his hands.
Jonah — That’s what I’m talking about! Even in a foreign country, you keep your traditions. That’s what I mean by not being a cop-out! Don’t sell out your traditions, don’t forget where you come from.
- Not being a sell-out, not giving up on your identity, not changing who you are.
Charles — Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s just enjoy the flight, okay?
Jonah — Enjoy? I’m relaxed as can be. I don’t know what you’re so scared about anyway!
Charles bumped his friend in the ribs with his elbow.
Charles — So, now I’m the scared one?
I would say by far, the most common use of Cop is relating to police. This will probably be the first thing that comes to most people’s minds. Cop out is also very common and used across the U.S., if not the world. Talking about police, “cop” is the most common slang word for a police officer, even though there are several others. It is also the least offensive and most neutral term for the police.
Copping something is more of a regional slang and I don’t think it’s as common for so many English speakers. I’m sure lots of people understand it, but it is the least used meaning out of the others we talked about here.
**Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you to better understand these expressions. Can you use “cop” or “cop-out” in your own sentences? Comment below! And feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or if you want to collaborate on the page (firstname.lastname@example.org). You’re more than welcome! Until next time. Peace.
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