Say the word “coup”, and chances are you say “coo”, that is, without pronouncing the “p”. As with many words of French origin, the final consonant is not pronounced, save for c, r, f, l, k, q, b (this is a rough-and-ready guide; French pronunciation rules are complex). Ultimately from the Greek kolaphos meaning “a blow, punch, slap”, via the Latin colaphus “a cuff, box on the ear”, thence the Vulgar Latin colapus and Medieval Latin colpus , the word entered English from the Old French coup or colp “a blow, strike”. And it was this literal sense of “coup” that was first adopted in Middle English, with the word spelt “coup”, “coupe” or “caupe”, and naturalised, that is, pronounced according to rules of its adopting language (as “cowp”). Meaning a blow or force of a blow, or a fall, upset or overturn, such meanings are either obsolete, or, as with the latter, exist only in Scottish. (Scottish “ coup ” also refers to the tilting of rubbish from a cart or a place where rubbish is deposited.) The figurative – and contemporary – coup was (re-)introduced into English in the 18th century, to mean a successful stroke or move. This time it was treated as a non-naturalised word, retaining its French pronunciation. Explainer: Aung San Suu Kyi, her NLD party and the Myanmar military behind coup Say the word “coup”, and it is usually taken to mean a coup d’état (French: de “of”, état “state”), the sudden violent overthrow – typically an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power – of a government by a small group. (In some languages, including Indonesian and Finnish, the phrase is orthographically – and phonetically – represented as kudeta .) Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup of November 1799 is considered one of the first of the modern coups d’état, and a classic of the genre. In addition to military coup – the most recent being that in Myanmar , widely condemned by world leaders – other “coups with adjectives” coined include democratic coup, and soft coup. More coup phrases have also been adopted in English. A coup de grâce (“stroke of grace”), literally a blow by which one who is condemned or mortally wounded is put out of their misery or dispatched quickly, figuratively entails a finishing stroke that settles a matter. A coup de théâtre is a theatrical hit, and by extension any sudden sensational act. A coup de foudre, literally a stroke of lightning, refers to a sudden unforeseen occurrence, a revelation – or love at first sight.