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It originated between 1910 and 1915 in the United States. According to Merriam-Webster, its first known use was in 1908. The commonly accepted etymology is that it originates from a southern Italian dialect term guappo, meaning thug, derived from the Spanish term guapo, via dialectical French, meaning ruffian or pimp. This also has roots in the Latin vappa, meaning wine gone flat.
This theory holds that the term was brought to the U.S. by early Southern Italian immigrants from the region of Campania, who named those suspected to belonging to the Guapparia "Guappi", in a similar fashion Sicilian people used the term "Mafiosi". Widely used in Chicago where most immigrants from Campania settled, it was confused by non-Italian people to indicate Southern Italians in general, like the word "paesano". Some refer to immigrants arriving at Ellis Island WithOutPapers as WOPs.
Although the history of the word wop is not entirely certain, it can be found in various forms throughout popular culture. One example is the bar fight scene in the film From Here to Eternity. During the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon referred to United States District Court Judge John Sirica as a "gol' darn wop."