: 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.

Examples of putsch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The army putsch ended any illusion of political progress. Hannah Beech, New York Times, 20 Apr. 2024 In scenes redolent of the putsches in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, jubilant supporters of military intervention were photographed in the capital, some waving Russian flags. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 28 July 2023 At the time, Turkey’s Western allies, including the United States, then led by President Barack Obama, missed a major opportunity by not embracing Turkey and its democracy after the traumatic putsch attempt. Soner Cagaptay, Foreign Affairs, 19 Feb. 2024 That putsch was the result of elements within Ukraine dissatisfied with Yanukovich’s desire to balance its lucrative free-trade regime with Moscow against the European Union’s desire to wrest economic control of the country from the Kremlin. Noah Rothman, National Review, 9 Feb. 2024 Analysts forecast a potential thinning out of the military’s ranks, a retreat from its positions outside a major urban centers, a drying up of its funds and even the possibility of an internal putsch that sidelines the current junta leadership. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 7 Dec. 2023 The schism between Abbas and Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza exploded in a bloody set of battles that saw Hamas violently wrest full control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, allegedly after the Bush administration tried to foment an anti-Hamas putsch in the territory. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2023 The ouster of the Gabonese president, who is currently believed to be under house arrest, marked the seventh coup in the region in the space of three years — including putsches in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 1 Sep. 2023 The putsch took place in Bavaria, Germany’s most conservative region, where even moderate conservatives were anti-republican opponents of the Weimar government in Berlin. Mark William Jones, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'putsch.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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


Cite this Entry

“Putsch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putsch. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

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