A new copper-catalyzed in situ generation of aryl thiolates strategy was successfully developed for the one-pot synthesis of substituted benzothiazoles from 2-iodoanilides using xanthate as a thiol precursor. A wide range of 2-iodoanilides with both electron-releasing and electron-withdrawing groups produced the corresponding benzothiazoles in good yields. Further, this one-pot protocol was successfully utilized for the synthesis of a potent antitumor agent 2-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-5-fluorobenzo[d]thiazole (PMX 610). Finally, the copper-catalyzed in situ generation of aryl thiolates strategy was successfully applied for the domino synthesis of substituted benzothiophenes from o-haloalkynyl benzenes using xanthate as a thiol precursor. © 2013 The Royal Society of Chemistry.