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[koo] /ku/
noun, plural coups
[kooz; French koo] /kuz; French ku/ (Show IPA)
a highly successful, unexpected stroke, act, or move; a clever action or accomplishment.
(among the Plains Indians of North America) a brave or reckless deed performed in battle by a single warrior, as touching or striking an enemy warrior without sustaining injury oneself.
count coup,
  1. to perform a coup.
  2. to recount or relate the coups one has performed.
Origin of coup1
1640-50; < French: literally, blow, stroke, Old French colp < Late Latin colpus, Latin colaphus < Greek kólaphos


[kohp, koop] /koʊp, kup/
verb (used with or without object), Scot.
overturn; upset.
1350-1400; Middle English coupe to pay for < Old Norse kaupa to buy, barter; cognate with Old English cēapian, German kaufen. See cheap Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for coup
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Later events have made such an explanation seem less persuasive, after the coup d'état at Sian in December, 1936.

    Government in Republican China Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger
  • He admitted that Malcolmson's coup was exceedingly well conceived.

    Gossamer George A. Birmingham
  • Urūj had made his first coup, and he did not hesitate to follow it up.

  • "My mother says your mother's coup, is n't half so stylish as ours," put in Alice.

    An Old-fashioned Girl Louisa May Alcott
  • To-morrow night I will finish this wrestle with my own folly; I will give the coup de grce to my imagination.

    The Return Of The Soul Robert S. Hichens
British Dictionary definitions for coup


a brilliant and successful stroke or action
short for coup d'état
Word Origin
C18: from French: blow, from Latin colaphus blow with the fist, from Greek kolaphos


to turn or fall over
a rubbish tip
Word Origin
C15: perhaps identical with obsolete cope to strike; see cope1


(Scot) to barter; traffic; deal
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse kaupa to buy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for coup

c.1400, from Old French coup, colp "a blow, strike" (12c.), from Medieval Latin colpus, from Vulgar Latin colapus, from Latin colaphus "a cuff, box on the ear," from Greek kolaphos "a blow, slap." Meaning "a sudden decisive act" is 1852, short for coup d'etat. In Modern French the word is a workhorse, describing everything from a pat on the back to a whipping, and is used as well of thunder, gusts of wind, gunshots, and chess moves.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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coup in Culture
coup [(kooh)]

In politics, an abbreviation for coup d'état.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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