Differences between Revolution Coup Detat Revolt and Secession

Some words are spelled completely differently but actually have very similar meanings, or at least people can think they have very similar meanings. One of these word sets includes revolution, coup d’etat, revolt, and secession. Without looking at actual definitions, these words all seem to deal with a change in government or perhaps a violent or nonviolent uprising but that isn’t necessarily the case. There are small differences between these words, such that one of them couldn’t be used to replace another.


Probably the most easily recognized of the group is the word revolution. Most uses of this particular form of the word deal with the overthrow of a government by the people being governed. However, this word is really synonymous with a change. The change could be in government, a change in society, a change in technology, or even a change in the way people think. Just about any radical change can be considered a revolution and there have been many revolutions over the course of history that had nothing to do with violence or insurrection.


Given the very similar spelling, the word revolt is very similar to revolution; however its meaning is rather different. Revolt is really a protest or an inability to accept something. It can also indicate direct action such as a rebellion. It does not really mean ‘change’ like revolution does. People revolt because of changes that they don’t like. Something has affected them and they don’t want to accept it so they act because of it. The actions could be violent or nonviolent. A simple protest is technically a revolt, even if it is completely nonviolent.

Coup d’etat

A coup d’etat, also know as just a coup, is a very interesting French word that is tantamount with the overthrow of a government. Commonly the actions are brought about from within the government. Contrary to a revolution in the government, which is done by the people, a coup d’etat is often comprised of political figures or high-ranking members of the military. These military or government officials try to take control of the government for themselves or try to create a new government. Usually the conspirators consist of a small group of individuals. Most coup do involve some level of violence as forces is often use to take control but a select few have historically been bloodless or at least as bloodless as possible.


A secession denotes the splitting or withdrawal of a group of individuals from a larger organization. One part or portion effectively leaves the other and may create a different group. This has happened many times in history where political parties have split, one group splits from an alliance or treaty, or even an entire part of a country splits off from the rest of the country. The Civil War in the United States was the result of the secession of the Southern states from the Union.