Fact Check

Etymology of Crips

What is the origin of name of the L.A. street gang known as the Crips?

Published Dec 31, 1998

Claim:   The gang known as the Crips took their name from an acronym for "continuous revolution in progress."


Origins:   There are more than a few stories making the rounds as to how this legendary Los Angeles street gang got its name. One version gives it as the

LAPD's disparagingly referring to this group as 'crips' (short for 'cripples') and the name sticking. Another school of thought has it that gang members were involved in a robbery of some Asian immigrants. When later interviewed by the police, the victims described their attackers in broken English as 'crips' (short for 'cripples' again). Yet another hotly argued theory has it that 'Crip' was the nickname of the lad who formed this gang.

Yet another theory holds that the gang was originally named the Baby Avenues (as an homage to an older gang called the Avenues), but over time came to be known as the Cribs (a reference to the "Baby" in "Baby Avenues"), and that this in turn evolved into Crips.

It has been suggested that the name 'crip' is an acronym for 'cowards run in packs.' This explanation I'm inclined to write off to revisionism (as the backdating of a taunt cast in the gang's direction), for I cannot see any street gang choosing a disparagement as the basis for its name.

It's also been advanced that 'crips' is a mispronunciation of 'crypts', a word strongly evocative of death and the finality of same, one that builds on the gang's image of serving the Grim Reaper. Of all the theories I've so far heard, I like this one best . . . but that liking is based solely upon this notion's appeal, not upon substantiation either offered or vetted.

The popular media is also far from reaching a consensus. Here's what's been said at different times in different places:

30 May 1992: The Guardian

Crips is an abbreviation for cripple, nickname of the gang's founder, who walked with a limp.

14 April 1992: Los Angeles Times

Word spread about the tough-looking young men, who some said carried canes and walked with a limp — cripples, or crips, they were called for short.

26 June 1988: Los Angeles Times

Some said they wore earrings. Some said they carried canes. Some said they walked with a limp, like cripples. The nickname spread: Crips.

There may have been something else to it. Manual Arts High teacher Donald Bakeer said he has been told that Crips was an acronym for Continuous Revolution In Progress. Dillard remembers Crips as a simple mispronunciation. He said Washington was hanging out with younger members of a gang called the Avenues, who were nicknamed the Crib Avenues, or Cribs, in reference to their youth. On the street, Dillard suggested, Cribs became Crips.

7 July 1975: U.S. News & World Report

A Senate subcommittee, also investigating school violence, reported that one gang in Los Angeles calls itself 'Crips' — described by the subcommittee as 'a short form of cripples, which in turn is derived from the gang's trademark of maiming or crippling their victims.'

3 September 1988: Los Angeles Times

[C]alled the Crips, a group of Crenshaw High students who wore blue khakis or blue bandannas to signify their power. Crips apparently had the know-how to cripple you. The rival gang was the Bloods, who apparently knew how to draw it. They wore red bandannas and so on.

So there we have it. The gang adopted the name in homage to its first leader whose nickname was Crip, or the early members were known for walking with a limp and/or using canes, or it's a stylized form of bragging about the gang's penchant for crippling opponents, or it's an acronym for either 'continuous revolution in progress' or 'cowards run in packs.' or it was the result of a mispronunciation of either 'crib' or 'crypt.' Take your pick.

Barbara "nicked name" Mikkelson

Last updated:   12 July 2011


    Baker, Bob.   "Cold Killers and Fearful Innocents."

    Los Angeles Times.   26 June 1988   (p. B1).

    Friend, Tom.   "Yarber - Tales of the Dark Side."

    Los Angeles Times.   3 September 1988   (p. C18).

    Katz, Jesse.   "An Ethic Dies with Gang Chief."

    Los Angeles Times.   14 April 1992   (p. B1).

    Walker, Martin.   "L.A. Gangs Give Peace a Chance."

    The Guardian.   30 May 1992   (p. 21).

    U.S. News & World Report.   "Street Gangs Turn from 'Rumbles' to Wanton Crime."

    7 July 1975   (p. 15).

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