Yesterday I saw a headline in a German newspaper using the word 'Kop' and yes, they were writing about policemen.

Okay, I don't read much in German but I have not seen the usage of the word 'cop' and especially not the Germanified version 'kop' before. Is this common?

Normally, when English words make it into the German language, their original spelling is kept, but under what circumstances is it changed?

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    Don't believe everything you read in a newspaper. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 8:39
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    Never read something like this before, but a quick google search gives two possibilities. I do not know the article, so I only can guess, that maybe one of those is meant. As you say its about policeman, maybe this one is the most likely: Kontaktbereichsbeamter (Bei der Bremer Polizei lautet die Bezeichnung Kontaktpolizist (KOP)) or
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 8:41
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    This was indeed a paper from Bremen and you are right, kop is a regional (clever) term for a neighborhood police officer, but because I was not aware of that and because I complain a lot about the wrong usage of English terms in German newspapers I thought this was another weird one. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 10:00
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    @PeterHahndorf It's not only a problem of newspaper. Especially in commercial we misuse English' words and phrases. Therefore your consideration about that point is absolutely legitimate. Unfortunately here in Germany, we don't bother.
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 13:20
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    Das ist aber der Kob, der Kontaktbereichsbeamte, nicht Kop. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 1:37

2 Answers 2


This Wikipedia article about the spelling reform of 1996 lists some older adaptations (like strike -> Streik) as well as other changes proposed in the reform. There seems to be a tendency in the German language to adapt the spelling of foreign words to their sound: silent consonants are eliminated, ‘ph’ is made into a ‘f’, accents (‘é’) are eliminated.

In the case of Kop I think that Em1 is right in that it’s the acronym for Kontaktbereichsbeamter or specifically Kontaktpolizist in Bremen, as “cop” is not in widespread use and a newspaper probably would not use it without quotation marks. I get the impression, that a foreign word has to be in wide use before it gets the German spelling “treatment”.

  • If you hadn’t come up with such a perfect explanation, I had appreciated the idea of Kalifornien-Kops very much, a novelty German TV series. There’s still hope.
    – dakab
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 20:29

Usually English words that are used in a german text are spelled the same way as they would be in English.

There may be one exception for anglicisms however. If a English noun is commonly used in German language, it will be spelled with a capital.

Because that's a general spelling-rule for nouns in standard German.

For example:

server - Server

email - E-Mail

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    But then it would be written Cop. As long as we do not integrate a word into german language, we will not replace the C through a K.
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 9:51
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    @Em1 even if the word is integrated into German, the C would probably not be replaced by a K. I'm not referring to the word Kop, but trying to answer this part of the question: under what circumstances is it (the spelling) changed?
    – Lukas
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 10:08
  • I thought about words like 'komfortabel' which has its origin from english comfortable(, but also from french confortable)
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 11:23
  • @Em1: The English comfortable has its origin in the French language. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 15:15
  • Using capitals for nouns does not depend on the frequency of its usage. If you adopt an english word, you have to write it with uppercase immediately. Exception: If it is part of a longer, not translated citation, then you write Englisch the English way. Another example would be babies. The Englisch word baby is a german foreign word, Baby, and as such the plural is build in German manner: Babys. Germans with good English skills often fall into this trap and tend to write 'Babies'. :) Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 1:42

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