Word of the Day – Tuesday, March 13th



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French for state
Common clues: Coup d' _____; Somme state; French state; Pierre's state
; Coup target; South Dakota, to Pierre; Division politique; Nice state
Crossword puzzle frequency: 7 times a year

A coup d'état, or simply a coup, is the sudden overthrow of a government through unconstitutional means by a part of the state establishment that mostly replaces just the top power figures. It may or may not be violent in nature. It is different from a revolution, which is staged by a larger group and radically changes the political system. The term is French for "a (sudden) blow (or strike) to a state" (literally, coup, hit, and état, state). The term coup can also be used in a casual sense to mean a gain in advantage of one nation or entity over another; e.g. an intelligence coup. By analogy, the term is also applied to corporations, etc; e.g. a boardroom coup.

Julius Caesar made a coup and was the victim of another coup.

Since the unsuccessful coup attempts of Wolfgang Kapp in 1920, and of Adolf Hitler in 1923, the Swiss German word "Putsch" (originally coined with the Züriputsch of 1839) is often used also, even in French (such as the putsch of November 8, 1942 and the putsch of April 21, 1961, both in Algiers), while the direct German translation is Staatsstreich.

Tactically, a coup usually involves control of some active portion of the military while neutralizing the remainder of a country's armed services. This active group captures or expels leaders, seizes physical control of important government offices, means of communication, and the physical infrastructure, such as streets and power plants. The coup succeeds if its opponents fail to dislodge the plotters, allowing them to consolidate their position, obtain the surrender or acquiescence of the populace and surviving armed forces, and claim legitimacy.

Coups typically use the power of the existing government for its own takeover. As Edward Luttwak remarks in his Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook: "A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder." In this sense, use of military or other organized force is not the defining feature of a coup d'état.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coup d'état".