Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior, with the hand or with a coup stick, then running away unharmed. Counting coup could also involve stealing from the enemy. Risk of injury or death was required to count coup.
The phrase "counting coup" can also refer to the recounting of stories about battle exploits.
The term is of French origin from the noun coup which means a hit, a blow or a strike. The expression can be seen as referring to "counting strikes".
Coups were recorded by notches in the coup stick, or by feathers in the headdress of a warrior who was rewarded with feathers for an act of bravery.
Modern derivations include "chatty coup" in which the equivalent of touching and escaping unharmed is to engage your opponent in meaningless casual conversation, until they are helplessly trying to extract themselves from the conversation, but are unable to do so.