coup de grâce


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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)

  1. 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.
  2. (by extension) A remarkable finishing action.

Usage notesEdit

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".


  • IPA(key): /ku də ɡʁɑs/
  • (file)


coup de grâce m (plural coups de grâce)

  1. finishing blow, coup de grâce


  • English: coup de grâce