coup de grâce

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 4, 2019 is:

coup de grâce • koo-duh-GRAHSS  • noun

1 : a deathblow or death shot administered to end the suffering of one mortally wounded

2 : a decisive finishing blow, act, or event


“Quarterback Jake Luton completed 18 of 26 passes for 285 yards and five TDs. He added the coup de grace in the fourth quarter with a 19-yard bootleg scamper for OSU’s final score.”  — Ken Goe, The Oregonian, 7 Oct. 2019

“The Bahama nuthatch was already thought to be extinct before Dorian hit, and the hurricane nailed Grand Bahama, where one or two nuthatches may have still been alive. ‘This could have been the coup de grâce for the nuthatch,’ Dr. Steadman said.” — James Gorman, The New York Times, 17 Sept. 2019

Did you know?

Borrowed directly from French and first appearing in English at the end of the 17th century, coup de grâce (also sometimes styled without the circumflex as coup de grace) translates literally as “stroke of grace” or “blow of mercy,” and originally referred to a mercy killing, or to the act of putting to death a person or animal who was severely injured and unlikely to recover. (In some contexts the term is used to refer to the final act of executing a convicted criminal.) Later, coup de grâce had come to mean “an act or event that puts a definite end to something.” Other coup terms that have made the jump from French to English include coup de main, for a sudden, forceful attack, and coup d’état for a violent overthrow of a government usually by a small group.

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