putsch

noun
\ ˈpu̇ch How to pronounce putsch (audio) \

Definition of putsch

: 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. 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 himself even 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 As news of the putsch spread, young protesters flooded onto the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and soldiers opened fire, killing seven people and wounding at least 140 others, a Sudanese health ministry official told Reuters. New York Times, 25 Oct. 2021 Were the events that day an attempted putsch or an extravagant fit of democratic passions? Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2021 Meanwhile the putsch in Mali was largely precipitated by a security crisis, which has seen militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State extend their influence across the north and center of the country. Reuters, CNN, 17 Sep. 2021 Opponents decried the dismissal of the government and the freezing of parliament as a putsch. Washington Post, 25 July 2021 In the face of public demonstrations against them, their putsch soon failed, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 1 Sep. 2021 On the day after the February coup, Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the putsch, prostrated himself at the feet of a senior Buddhist abbot. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 29 Aug. 2021 Neither the outcome of the putsch nor the fate of the resistance is preordained. New York Times, 6 May 2021 Protests erupted within a week after the putsch and have continued almost daily in the six months since. Feliz Solomon, WSJ, 1 Aug. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of putsch

1919, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for putsch

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."

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Last Updated

15 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Putsch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putsch. Accessed 27 Nov. 2021.

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