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It is obvious that "beaucoup" is formed from 2 words: beau "fine, great" and coup "stroke", but what's not so obvious (at least at first glance) is how/why it's evolved to mean "many, much".

I found the following explanation of beaucoup's etymology on www.etymonline.com:

French, literally "a great heap," from beau "fine, great" (see beau (n.)) + coup "a stroke," also "a throw," hence, "a heap" (see coup (n.)). Cf. Spanish golpe "multitude."

I see some logic here but maybe there are more detailed story / other explanations available?

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1 Answer 1

Voici ce que dit le TLFi :

ÉTYMOL. ET HIST. − [xiiies. biau cop « grande et belle chose » (Joinville, 221 dans Littré : Nos engins getoient aus leurs; et les leurs aus nostres; mès onques n'oy dire que les nostres feissent biau cop)]; 1. avec valeur de subst. 1379 beaucoup précédé d'un verbe « une grande quantité » (J. de Brie, Bon Berger, éd. Lacroix, 109 dans T.-L., s.v. coup : Et n'est force que les brebis menge[nt] beaucoup au mois de juing); fin xives. beaucoup de + subst. « id. » (Froissart, Chron., II, 320 dans Gdf. Compl. : Qui vous fera encores biaucop de bien); 2. 1465 adv. (J. Aubrion, Journ., ibid. : Le vin en fuit plux chier, et le bledz aussi belcop). Composé de beau* et de coup*.

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