British Slang meaning to run off or run away. There are two theories about its origin. One is rhyming slang Scapa Flow/go. Scapa Flow is a remote Royal Navy anchorage in the Shetland Islands that made world headlines in 1919 after the Great War, when German sailors scuttled their entire battle fleet in Scapa Flow rather than allow it to pass into British hands. There is strong evidence, however, that the word scarper was in use from the mid-19th century, long before the average Brit would have heard of Scapa Flow. The second theory is that it was borrowed from the Italian scappare, which means to run away. The chronology suggests the second theory is more plausible but there is little doubt that the Scapa Flow theory gave the expression fresh impetus from about 1919 onwards.