In Alastair Reynolds' Revenger, which is set some tens of millions of years in the future, the characters have new nicknames for things.

Usually the derivation is pretty obvious, "grey" for brains, "gen" for intelligence. But I can't figure out where "cove" for a single person came from. Anyone is a cove, whether they live on a ship or a habitat.

What does it come from?

  • Lol why did this question about terminology in a relatively obscure book get so many views? Apr 3, 2019 at 23:57
  • Hot Network Questions is why :)
    – Kroltan
    Apr 4, 2019 at 0:06
  • 1
    @AzorAhai It may be relatively obscure to you. But some of us are Alastair Reynolds fans and don't consider his books obscure at all. Apr 4, 2019 at 5:17
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    @manassehkatz I'm an Alastair Reynolds fan! But there are only 18 [alastair-reynolds] questions compared to like SW or HP lol so I was surprised I got a badge for this one Apr 4, 2019 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


Cove is old British slang for man. Wiktionary says:

Britain ante-1570. From Romani kodo (“this one, him”), perhaps change in consonants due to lower class th-fronting, or Romani kova (“that person”).

A fellow; a man.

  • 6
    It's particularly pirate-y
    – Deolater
    Apr 3, 2019 at 14:47
  • 1
    @Deolater That fits the theme Apr 3, 2019 at 16:33

It's an slightly derogatory expression for a man that I've come across in early 20th century books. Google searches for sly cove and funny looking cove give examples.

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