Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sudden action undertaken to surprise an enemy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a sudden and unexpected movement or attack.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an attack without warning

Etymologies

French : coup, stroke, blow + de, of + main, hand.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • PÈrier had expelled him from France in 1831, he and a few officers from Strasburg attempted, but failed in, a coup de main (1836).

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10: Mass Music-Newman

  • The first attempt to take Epinal in a coup de main had failed.

    Panzer Aces

  • By his brilliant coup de main at Yelnya the German commander had precipitated Timoshenko's counterattack and thereby drawn the infantry of Army Group Centre across the Dnieper and into the battle, but at the same time the Panzers had remained in action, and so the very factors which had kept the centre of gravity in his hands for those three extra weeks now made it inevitable that there would be a pause.

    Barbarossa

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