Learn English – Meanings of word “nick” in British English


Word nick seems to be used to describe many things. According to the dictionary, the main meanings are:

  • a small notch, groove, chip, or the like, cut into or existing in something.
  • a hollow place produced in an edge or surface by breaking, chipping, or the like.
  • a small dent or wound.

And other similar meanings, both nouns and verbs.

In British English (mostly slang level), word nick may also refer to a prison or a police station, but at the same time it may also mean to steal. While I can make a guess that a prison cell is a small hollow place (of sort) and hence further a police station may be called a nick, I'm puzzled as to the meaning to steal. How could it have come about?

Best Answer

Nick refers both to a prison cell and to the process of a police officer arresting someone. I suspect that the slang nick meaning to steal led to this meaning as arresting is taking someone away which, in turn, led to the slang for a prison cell.