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See also: Copper


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Chemical element
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Copper in its natural state.


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English coper, from Old English coper, copor (copper), from Late Latin cuprum (copper), contraction of Latin aes Cyprium (literally Cyprian brass), from Ancient Greek Κύπρος (Kúpros, Cyprus). Cognate with Dutch koper (copper), German Kupfer (copper), Icelandic kopar (copper).


copper (countable and uncountable, plural coppers)

  1. (uncountable) A reddish-brown, malleable, ductile metallic element with high electrical and thermal conductivity, symbol Cu, and atomic number 29.
  2. The reddish-brown colour/color of copper.
  3. (countable, dated) Any of various specialized items that are made of copper, where the use of copper is either traditional or vital to the function of the item.
    • 1885, General Rules and Regulations Applicable to All Employes of the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway Company:
      Coppers are generally good for a year, if the battery is carefully attended []
    • 1890, The Manufacturer and Builder, volume 22, page 83:
      Some coppers come already tinned. I didn't buy mine, so they surely were not tinned.
    • 1907, “Instructions for the Care of Callaud Batteries”, in Journal of the Telegraph, volume XL:
      Coppers are not consumed, and their life depends largely on the manner in which they are used.
    1. (countable) A copper coin, typically of a small denomination, such as a penny.
      • 1799, Benjamin Franklin, edited by John Bigelow, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, published 1868, page 255:
        I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers.
      • 1909, Archibald Marshall [pseudonym; Arthur Hammond Marshall], chapter II, in The Squire’s Daughter, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead and Company, published 1919, →OCLC:
        "I don't want to spoil any comparison you are going to make," said Jim, "but I was at Winchester and New College." ¶ "That will do," said Mackenzie. "I was dragged up at the workhouse school till I was twelve. Then I ran away and sold papers in the streets, and anything else that I could pick up a few coppers by—except steal. []."
    2. (UK, Australia, dated) A large pot, often used for heating water or washing clothes over a fire. In Australasia at least, it could also be a fixed installation made of copper, with a fire underneath and its own chimney. Generally made redundant by the advent of the washing machine.
      Mum would heat the water in a copper in the kitchen and transfer it to the tin bath.
      I explain that socks can’t be boiled up in the copper with the sheets and towels or they shrink.
      • 1797, “Dyeing”, in Colin Macfarquhar, George Gleig, editors, Encyclopædia Britannica: or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Volume 6, Part 1 p.207:
        When the water in the copper boils, the arsenic and tartar, well pounded, is put into it, and kept boiling till the liquor is reduced to about half.
      • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 6:
        'You had better mind you don't get up too early, and you mustn't put any fire under the copper before two o'clock.'
      • 1898, H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, London: William Heinemann, page 230:
        He rose to his knees, for he had been sitting in the darkness near the copper.
      • 1907, Barbara Baynton, edited by Sally Krimmer and Alan Lawson, Human Toll (Portable Australian Authors: Barbara Baynton), St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, published 1980, page 254:
        'Vot game now she play?' he asked himself, as he distinguished his wife near one of the pig-scalding coppers.
      • 2000, Christopher Christie, The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century, page 266:
        The wet laundry's stove had a long vent in the ceiling which helped to release the steam from the coppers in which the clothes and bed linen were boiled.
  4. (entomology) Any of various lycaenid butterflies with copper-coloured upperwings, especially those of the genera Lycaena and Paralucia.
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copper (comparative more copper, superlative most copper)

  1. Made of copper.
  2. Having the reddish-brown colour/color of copper.
    • 1797–1798 (date written), [Samuel Taylor Coleridge], “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”, in Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, London: [] J[ohn] & A[rthur] Arch, [], published 1798, →OCLC:
      All in a hot and copper sky, / The bloody Sun, at noon, / Right up above the mast did stand, / No bigger than the Moon.
    • 1999, Maria M. Gillan, Things My Mother Told Me, page 38:
      She seemed so alive, with her shining eyes and her copper hair and her jokes and funny stories, but there was always a mystery at the center of her life, the sound of wild sobbing my mother said she heard coming through the floor.
  • (made of copper): coppern (archaic)
  • (having the colour/color of copper): coppery


copper (third-person singular simple present coppers, present participle coppering, simple past and past participle coppered)

  1. To sheathe or coat with copper.

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From cop (to take, capture, seize) +‎ -er (agent noun suffix).


copper (plural coppers)

  1. (slang, law enforcement) A police officer.
    Synonyms: police officer, constable, cop; see also Thesaurus:police officer
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Further reading[edit]

  • David Barthelmy (1997–2024) “Copper”, in Webmineral Mineralogy Database.
  • "copper" in, Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, 2000–2021.

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of coper