1. Two items of the same kind; a pair.
2. Something that joins or connects two things together; a link.
3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
a. Two people united, as by betrothal or marriage.
b. Two people together.
4. Informal A few; several: a couple of days.
5. Physics A pair of forces of equal magnitude acting in parallel but opposite directions, capable of causing rotation but not translation.
v. cou·pled, cou·pling, cou·ples
1. To link together; connect: coupled her refusal with an explanation.
2. Electricity To link (two circuits or currents), as by magnetic induction.
3. Archaic To join together in marriage; marry.
1. To form pairs; join.
2. To unite sexually; have sexual intercourse.
3. To join chemically.
Two or few: "Every couple years the urge strikes, to ... haul off to a new site" (Garrison Keillor).
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin cōpula, bond, pair.]
Usage Note: When used to refer to two people who function socially as a unit, as in a married couple, the word couple may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on whether the members are considered individually or collectively: The couple were married last week. Only one couple was left on the dance floor. When a pronoun follows, they and their are more common than it and its: The couple decided to spend their (less commonly its) vacation in Florida. Using a singular verb and a plural pronoun, as in The couple wants their children to go to college, is widely considered to be incorrect. Care should be taken that the verb and pronoun agree in number: The couple want their children to go to college. · Although the phrase a couple of has been well established in English since before the Renaissance, modern critics have sometimes maintained that a couple of is too inexact to be appropriate in formal writing. But the inexactitude of a couple of may serve a useful purpose, suggesting that the writer is indifferent to the precise number of items involved. Thus the sentence She lives only a couple of miles away implies not only that the distance is short but that its exact measure is unimportant. This usage should be considered unobjectionable on all levels of style. · The of in the phrase a couple of is often dropped in speech, but this omission is usually considered a mistake. In 2013, 80 percent of the Usage Panel found the sentence A couple friends came over to watch the game to be unacceptable.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.