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coup Syllabification: coup

Definition of coup in English:

noun (plural coupsko͞oz)

1 (also coup d'état) A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government: he was overthrown in an army coup
More example sentences
  • In November he precipitated a second coup d'état.
  • This was the coup d'état of his grandfather Louis XV and chancellor Maupeou against the parlements.
  • The country's all-powerful military, which has seized power in three coups since 1960, sees staunch secularism as a pillar of the state.
seizure of power, coup d'état, putsch, overthrow, takeover, deposition;
2A notable or successful stroke or move: it was a major coup to get such a prestigious contract
More example sentences
  • Two of the greatest Second World War intelligence coups were achieved by the Russians.
  • A young man who scored a major coup by being elected to both local authorities having had difficulties in getting nominated.
  • If the deal is successful, it would be a major coup for the galleries, putting its collection of modern art on a par with London's Tate Modern.
2.1An unusual or unexpected but successful tactic in card play.
3A contusion caused by contact of the brain with the skull at the point of trauma. Compare with contrecoup.
4 historical (Among North American Indians) an act of touching an armed enemy in battle as a deed of bravery, or an act of first touching an item of the enemy’s in order to claim it.


Late 18th century: from French, from medieval Latin colpus 'blow' (see cope1).

  • cope from Middle English:

    Nowadays to cope with something is to manage or deal with it effectively, but the word used to mean ‘to meet in battle’ or ‘to come to blows’. Its source is the Latin word colpus ‘a blow’, which is also the root of coup (Late Middle English), ‘a sudden seizure of power from a government’ often used in its French form coup d'état (mid 17th century). Coppice (Late Middle English), woodland where the trees have regularly been cut back, and its shortening copse (late 16th century) also go back to colpus, from the idea that they have been cut back with blows.

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