putsch

noun

: a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government

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In its native Swiss German, putsch originally meant "knock" or "thrust," but these days both German and English speakers use it to refer to the kind of government overthrow also known as a coup d'état or coup. Putsch debuted in English shortly before the tumultuous Kapp Putsch of 1920, in which Wolfgang Kapp and his right-wing supporters attempted to overthrow the German Weimar government. Putsch attempts were common in Weimar Germany, so the word appeared often in the stories of the English journalists who described the insurrections. Adolf Hitler also attempted a putsch (known as the Beer Hall Putsch), but he ultimately gained control of the German government via other means.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2022 The putsch came less than three months later, and the country’s top leaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned. New York Times, 27 July 2022 The situation in Myanmar—where a putsch last year dethroned the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and spawned new and reinvigorated old anti-junta rebel groups—has caused a spike in demand. Charlie Campbell, Time, 6 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'putsch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from German Putsch, borrowed from Swiss German Putsch, Butsch "resounding noise, violent shove, rush against an obstacle or toward an undertaking, popular disturbance," of imitative origin

Note: In Switzerland the word Putsch became associated in the first half of the nineteenth century with civil disturbances that arose from the lack of rural representation in the government of the Swiss cantons—as in the canton of Aargau, where a rural revolt (the Freiämtersturm) forced changes in the cantonal constitution in 1830, and particularly in Zürich, where a march into the city by rural conservatives on September 6, 1839, resulted in bloodshed and an overthrow of the liberal city administration (the Züriputsch). The word may have been popularized in Germany by the Swiss author Gottfried Keller, who used it in an oft-quoted passage in his novel Der grüne Heinrich ("Green Henry," 1855): "Das Wort Putsch stammt aus der guten Stadt Zürich, wo man einen plötzlichen vorübergehenden Regenguss einen Putsch nennt und demgemäss die eifersüchtigen Nachbarstädte jede närrische Gemütsbewegung, Begeisterung, Zornigkeit, Laune oder Mode der Züricher einen Zürichputsch nennen." ("The word Putsch originates in the good city of Zürich, where people call a sudden passing downpour a Putsch, and accordingly the jealous neighboring cities give the name 'Zürich Putsch' [Swiss German Züriputsch] to every foolish emotional display, inspiration, burst of anger, mood or fashion of the Zürich natives.") Keller's usage has no connection to politics, however, and in any case, as the Schweizerisches Idiotikon notes, he appears to have confused Putsch with Gutsch (also Gutz, Gütsch) "torrent, overflow of a liquid."

First Known Use

1919, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of putsch was in 1919

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Cite this Entry

“Putsch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putsch. Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

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