coup de grâce
Late 17th century. Borrowed from French coup de grâce (“finishing blow”). Originally referring to a merciful stroke putting a fatally wounded person out of misery or to the shot delivered to the head of a prisoner after facing a firing squad.
coup de grâce (plural coups de grâce)
- A final blow or shot given to kill a wounded person or animal.
- Coordinate term: mercy killing
- 1719 April 25, [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, […], 3rd edition, London: […] W[illiam] Taylor […], published 1719, OCLC 838630407, page 50:
- After we had row'd, or rather driven about a League and a Half, as we reckon'd it, a raging Wave, Mountain-like, came rolling a-ſtern of us, and plainly bad us expect the Coup-de-Grace.
- 1889, Ambrose Bierce, The Coup de Grâce:
- The expression of his face was an appeal; his eyes were full of prayer. […] For what, indeed? For that which we accord to even the meanest creature without sense to demand it, denying it only to the wretched of our own race: for the blessed release, the rite of uttermost compassion, the coup de grâce.
- (by extension) A remarkable finishing action.
Some speakers, aware that some final consonants are dropped in French, drop the final /s/ sound in grâce even though it is pronounced in French, making it sound like French coup de gras (“strike of fat”).
Literally "strike of mercy".
- → English: coup de grâce