bobby [police officer] (BE)

  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    In general it sounds dated, but it survives in certain contexts, notably "Blunkett's Bobbies" which is a derisive description applied to PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) introduced in 2002 by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett as a way of bolstering police numbers, and also the catchphrase "Bobbies on the Beat", often cited as an argument fot increasing the number of officers actually out patrolling the streets.

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In the plural at least, it's more popular today than it's ever been, so Google Books Ngram Viewer tells me. I think it's the sort of word that police like to use when talking about themselves, with all its connotations of traditional good-natured English paternalism which cop, pig and fuzz never had.

    (Incidentally, it was also used of/by signalmen on the railways.)


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Agreed that bobbie is out of date, but if you're thinking of a traditional English village, you could just about talk about the village bobbie in a rather self-conscious way. Otherwise, cop and copper can be used.


    Senior Member
    British English
    Are British policemen still called bobbies?
    Yes. There are 57 examples in the British National Corpus, which was collected in the period 1985-1993. They come from a mixture of sources including current news items in the press and on television, Hansard, and fiction. A very few are historical references to "bobbies" being an early term for policemen.

    This is a good example of an occasion where a Google ngram is of very limited benefit - there is no way of restricting the search to "bobbies" meaning "police officers" in BE only. The books linked under the ngram are also unhelpful - those links are to a Google Books search which is restricted only by date range and not by place of publication. There is also no certainty that the books found by that search were included in building the ngram database.

    If you are interested in current usage the "in context" link in the dictionary is useful. That should help to answer the question about "still called bobbies" - they are.

    Le Gallois bilingue

    Senior Member
    English (U.K.)
    In the phrases “a Bobby on the beat” and “Bobbies on the beat” the word Bobby is very much alive and well albeit harking back to an era of warm beer, cricket on the green and old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist.Such halcyon days!