5 Terms That Refer To Different Types Of Uprisings
Politics and Activism

5 Terms For Different Types Of Uprisings

Revolution terminology can get tricky, but don't worry—this article will teach you the difference between a coup and an insurrection.


Ahhh alas, the pain that seared through my history-loving mind when I heard people applying the term "coup" to the Venezuelan uprising.

"Coup" in and of itself is not a bad word, but every word has a very specific meaning—and "coup" is no exception. I realize that many people may not know the difference between uprising terminology, so as someone who frequently finds herself studying upheavals, I decided to pass this knowledge on to you, my dear readers

Coup d'état.

In the Disney cartoon "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (based on Victor Hugo's novel), Phoebes, the Captain of the Guard, sees Frollo's usurpation of power and leads the army and citizens of Paris against Frollo. This scene is not depicted in the novel, but it is a powerful part of the cartoon. My dear readers, this is a coup. Phoebes is already a member of the army, and he overthrows Frollo via a military coup. From a certain perspective, "The Lion King" also depicts a coup when you take into account that both Scar and Simba are absolute rulers and probably wield military power.

If Frollo were a member of Congress, this would not be a coup.

Napoleon's seizure of power and Hugo Chavez's rise to power in 1992 Venezuela are both solid examples of coups in history.


These terms can be used interchangeably. A protest turned violent can usually be defined as these. The purpose of a riot is not always to completely change the government; rather, it is usually about a particular policy.


These two also can be used interchangeably. A coup can also be an insurgency, but not all insurgencies are coups. An insurgency occurs when there is a general uprising with the intent of changing the government or creating massive change. It can be either peaceful or violent, and many times in history, the lines were blurred.

Juan Guaidó's uprising in Venezuela is best classified as an insurgency since he is not a military leader. The rebellions leading to the Fall of Communism are also classified as insurgencies, but since they were victorious, we can now classify them as "revolutions."

The American Civil War could also be classified as an insurgency.


Ahhh, "insurrection" is another tricky term. It is sometimes used to mean the same thing as "uprising," but usually, an insurrection occurs from within another governing body. The American Revolution can be classified as such since they did not create new institutions, and they followed the lesser magistrate doctrine. Guaidó's uprising may also fall into this category as he is claiming constitutional powers.


Finally, the biggest term of them all! This term is used frequently for a wide variety of things. We say things like "Oh, it's a revolution in music!" when referring to a new album or "Revolutionary new choice!" when talking about a new way of thinking.

In politics and history, a revolution is a complete and new turnover of power that gets rid of centuries of authoritarian monarchist rule in favor of a new system of government, as the French Revolution did. The Revolutions of 1989 also got rid of decades of communist rule and paved the way for democracy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

There you have it, citizens! These terms can sometimes overlap, but they also have their own special functions, as we all do. I hope you can use this knowledge and go on to impress your friends at the coffeeshops!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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