Printable Version
Pronunciation: ree-kup Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To regain, recover, to get back something lost or its equivalent, its fungible. 2. To compensate, repay, as to recoup veterans for the sacrifices they make.

Notes: Here is another 'curve' word in the same sense as our Good Word congeries. We all know how to recoup something lost, but how do we "coup" it in the first place? In fact, there is no word coup—at least not a related word with a pronounced P. The Word History will elucidate. Recoup does come with a complement of derivations. That which may be recouped is recoupable, and we may speak of its recoupability. A person or institution recouping losses may be said to be a recouper.

In Play: The most widely discussed financial recouping was the US government's TARP program back in 2008: "Wall Street financial institutions recouped much of the money they squandered over the previous twenty years from the federal government's TARP program." Of course, attempts at recouping squandered money are not always successful: "Lingering longer at the roulette table only led to my needing to recoup more and more money."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French recouper "to recut, recompensate". It comprises re- "again" + couper "to cut". The current meaning apparently emerged from a legal sense of the verb, to "recut" or deduct a percentage of a payment for one's own services. The noun related to this verb, coup (today pronounced [ku]) retains the meaning of the Latin noun it came from, colaphus "a blow, a slap". English borrowed it to designate a blow to a government in an attempt to overthrow it. The past participle of couper, coupé "cut off", was applied in bygone days to a shortened carriage with only two passenger seats. This sense was carried over in modern times to cars with only two doors. (It is now time to recoup Jeremy Busch for suggesting today's Good Word in the Alpha Agora with a word of gratitude: thanks.)

Dr. Goodword,

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