Grammar

Coop or Coup?

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A choice between coop or coup can be confusing because the words look similar, but they’re neither spelled nor pronounced the same way.

There are many words in our language like coop or coup that may look or sound similar.

IWhen I write about commonly-confused words, I often write about words spelled differently but pronounced the same. We call those words homophones.

But coop and coup are not homophones: in addition to being spelled differently and having different meanings, they are not pronounced identically.

Coop

A coop, as a noun, means a cage or a small enclosure used for confining animals, particularly chickens. We’ve all heard of a chicken coop, right?

More broadly, it describes any type of confinement like a jail.

Someone who feels “cooped up” experiences feelings of confinement or entrapment.

It’s important to note that the words coop and co-op are not the same. You correctly pronounce coop as “koop” while you pronounce both syllables of co-op. A co-op, which is short for cooperative, is a business or partnership enterprise. In my state, and I’m sure in others, there are electric cooperatives, or co-ops, that operate as private nonprofits to deliver power to its customers. The hyphen sometimes disappears, but it should be there to be clear.

Coup

Coup entered English in the 1400s from the French colpus, “a blow.” You pronounce coup as “koo,” the sound a pigeon might make. It has two meanings, one specific and one often used more figuratively.

One definition of coup is a violent takeover or overthrow of a government. Last month, Newsweek published an article with this lede:

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has “very reliable” information that there is a genuine risk of a military coup to oust him from power, according to his spokesperson, and that he could use martial law or the declaration of a revolutionary government to solve the country’s problems.

In this usage, coup is short for the French coup d’état, a stroke or blow against the state. It’s pronounced “koo-de-tah.”

A coup de grâce is a death blow or death shot administered to end the suffering of one mortally wounded. In French, the circumflex is written over the A, but in English, it’s often omitted and the phrase is written as coup de grace. It’s pronounced “koo-de-grah.”

A coup de grace can also refer to a “death knell” for a plan or proposal.

The more figurative usage of coup refers to a strike or blow. That meaning doesn’t require a takeover of government.

1 Comment

  1. This reminds me of an old joke (maybe what’s called a “Dad Joke” these days): Why do chicken coops have two doors? If they had four, they would be sedans. Then, there is that flock of pigeons perched above the entry at City Hall. Are they planning a coo d’état? Watch out when you walk under them, anyway! 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.