The English word 'Police' in common usage worldwide?

Just something that struck me when watching the news recently, on most footage of local police forces worldwide the officers/equipment have the word ‘Police’ in English either in addition to the word in their own language or by itself.

Is ‘Police’ commonly accepted and recognised worldwide or is it as the result of something as mundane as police equipment being sourced from a handful of companies?


Not in Hungary. There, the word is “Rendorseg”, with some accent marks I can’t reproduce here.

Of course, Hungarian is not an Indo-European language, so many words that are very similar all across the rest of Europe are very different there.


Maybe it’s for anglophone tourists. I’ve never seen it though personally.

Well I was going through that ‘Best pictures of 2008’ thread and I noticed it there as well. Maybe its just me!

I was going to say “you are crazy and don’t know what you are talking about”, until I realized the little guard station at my university’s main gate has a sign that says “Police” on it in big letters. This is probably the only sign on the entire campus in English. Hell, it’s the only sign around in the Roman alphabet.

We aren’t on any sort of tourist track and there are next to no Anglophones in the city. So apparently they put “police” on their station just because that is what is done. I’ve never heard anyone saying it, though.

Here in Ireland, they’re pretty universally called garda or gardai (from the Irish garda siochana, guardians of the peace). So the “police” usage hasn’t even made it the 50 miles across the Irish Sea.

Strange, I could have sworn it had made it across the Atlantic. :slight_smile:

Actually (besides the countless Anglophone or English-second language countries where it’s used) I’ve seen it myself on TV in places where you wouldn’t expect it. Damned if I can recall the countries but I definitely remember thinking, That’s weird, why is that car marked Police?

No, you’re right - we do call them ‘police’ here in England. :slight_smile:

I was watching the news reports about the rioting in Greece a couple of days ago, and noticed that their police cars have ‘police’ on them…

I think you mean to say “police” as it is spelled in English.
But it’s certainly not an English word

["]M-W](Police Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster[2)

Well as far as I understand it that was a conscious decision on the founding of the Irish Republic (I realise it didn’t become that until 1947 (?) but you know what I mean) to mark the new police force as distinct from what had gone before and was still existant in the rest of the UK. Policing in general being one of the more controversial aspects of the whole situation in Ireland in general.

I’m from Northern Ireland btw

A now defunct joke that used to do the rounds, “Why are the RUC called the RUC? Because they Are You See” :wink:

And I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who noticed the phenomenon I mentioned!

That’s a good point Charlie Tan, thanks

I haven’t noticed this in any of the countries I’ve been to. I have, OTOH, noticed stop signs, using the English word STOP, in non-English speaking countries. The result was that “stop” was one of the few English words my students in Bulgaria were guaranteed to know. But the police cars just said “полиция” on them.

Going through Google Japan Images it would appear that about 50% of Japanese police cars do say “Police” in English characters.

Personal guess would be that the prevalence of American TV shows and movies has lead to it seeming like a police car doesn’t look like a police car without it saying “Police” and any foreigners will also recognize it even if the colors and patterns of the police vehicle doesn’t match what they have back home.

I noticed this when my wife and I saw the movie “Tell No One” about a week ago. (Yes, it finally made it to these parts!) Earlier in the movie a character is wearing a shirt that says “Gendarmerie”, but later during a chase scene the word “Police” could be plainly seen on police cars and a few guys in jackets running around. I wondered at the time if “Police” was for the benefit of us English-speaking folks or if they really use the word.

Lots of places in Asia use “Police” or some variant thereof, often in addition to the local language, often on riot gear:

Indonesia: Polisi
Philippines: Pulis
Malaysia: Polis
Singapore: Police
Thailand: Police
Vietnam: Police
Cambodia: Police
China: Police
Korea: Police
India: Police
Pakistan: Police
Sri Lanka: Police
Bangladesh: Police

I read an article about a similar subject in a law enforcement magazine at the courthouse a few weeks ago. There’s a growing trend for vehicles and uniforms identifying law enforcement officers to say “POLICE” prominently on them even when the agency doesn’t have “police” in the title, because the word “police” immediately identifies that person as law enforcement, even to non-english speakers. That’s why a lot of times you’ll see County Sheriff, FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, or what have you with a jacket that reads “POLICE” prominently, followed underneath by a more descriptive “federal agent” or whatever underneath. I wouldn’t be surprised if “police” is something of a lingua franca for “this person is law enforcement.”

Not in Hungary, as I mentioned above. See this picture:



The crest on the car’s hood does say “police”, though.

As someone mentioned above, “police” is actually a French word - it also means policy (insurance), and surprisingly - font.
Roughly, Gendarmerie is rural (and military) and Police is urban (and civilian).

A picture in the New York Times today about the riots in Greece clearly shows the police with the word “Police” on their riot gear. So I just had to Google more images of police, this time in Europe:

France: Police (natch!)
Italy: Polizia
Germany: Polizei
Spain: Policia
Portugal: Policia
Poland: Policja
Norway: Politi
Sweden: Polis
Denmark: Politi
Hungary: while the cars may not say it, the badges do indeed say Police
Romania: Politia
Czech Republic: Policie
Croatia: Policija
Turkey: Polis

Countries that use Cyrillic generally only have “Police” in Cyrillic with the notable exception of Serbia.

I like your dedication to the cause TerminusEst :smiley:

Actually its interesting to see all the different police vehicles that are in service in different countries.