Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Coup d'etat Definition:

French: an often violent, always sudden and unlawful replacement of an existing government.

Related Terms: Revolution, Civil War, War

Spelled coup d'état but often rendered without the acute accent on the e as in coup d'etat.

James Fox suggests this definition:

"Blow to the state; revolutionary or military overthrow of a government with the formation of a new government."

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law professor Tayyab Mahmud described the coup d'etat as successful treason and adopts this definition:

"... a change in government (which) issues from the threat or use of force against the incumbent regime ... a sudden, forceful stroke in politics; especially, the sudden, forcible overthrow of a government."

Aka, putsch.


  • Fox, James, Dictionary of International and Comparative Law, 3rd Ed. (New York: Oceana Publications Inc., 2003), page 73
  • Luttwak, E., Coup d'état: A Practical Handbook (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979
  • Mahmud, Tayyab, Jurisprudence of Successful Treason: Coup d'Etat and Common Law, 27 Cornell Int'l L. J. 49 (1994)

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