history of succumb

Did you have to surrender to somebody? Or have you ever felt overwhelmed by looming obligations and just couldn’t bring yourself to fulfil them? Or maybe you were tempted to do something you weren’t supposed to? No matter which one was it, at some point you had to succumb. Now, what does it mean? Keep on reading!

Today’s word of the day is ‘succumb’. In this article, we take a look at the etymology of the word ‘succumb’, and explore its meaning and usage. Additionally, we showcase a range of synonyms for it and explain, with examples, when it is a good time to use this word.

Where does ‘succumb’ come from?

The origins of the word ‘succumb’ can be traced back to two languages: Latin and Old French. From Latin succumbere meant ‘submit’, ‘surrender’, ‘yield’. It came out of assimilating the prefix sub-, which meant ‘under’, and a word cumbere – ‘take a reclining position’. Later on, starting from the 15th century, the word succomber was used in Old French. At that time its meaning shifted already to ‘die’ or ‘lose a legal case’. Like many other French words, this one too has found its place in the English language.

‘Succumb’ in English

In English ‘succumb’ functions from around the beginning of the 17th century. At first, it only meant ‘to sink under pressure’. From 1849 onwards, ‘succumb’ began to be used as a euphemism for dying. However, both original meanings have been somewhat retained to this day and depending on the context ‘succumb’ can be understood that way.

What does ‘succumb’ mean?

Nowadays verb ‘succumb’ has two primary meanings. The first one: if you succumb to an attack, some kind of force or temptation, it means that you weren’t able to repel it. It may mean stopping or failing to actively resist what is affecting you or the opposite – doing the thing that you are tempted to do.

The second one expresses an act of dying, especially to an illness, an injury or old age. In both cases that meaning of ‘succumb’ relates to either stopping or being unable to resist something any longer.

Less frequently ‘succumb’ may also mean taking up a bowed, kneeled or lying position. This meaning is a direct link to the Latin word cumbere from which ‘succumb’ originated.

‘Succumb’ is a regular verb. Its other forms are ‘succumbed’, ‘succumbing’, and ‘succumbs’. It is also used with a preposition ‘to’.

history of succumb
meaning of succumb
examples of succumb in sentences

When to use ‘succumb’ in a sentence?

There aren’t that many examples of ‘succumb’ in everyday language. It isn’t the kind of word one would use in a casual conversation. It is more widely used in literature and more formal forms of language. So using ‘succumb’ is a good idea when you want to sound more well-spoken and sophisticated.


Here’s how you could use ‘succumb’ in a sentence:

  • The soldiers sent to the battle fought bravely, but in the end they had to succumb.
  • The people of the United States would never succumb to any foreign force.
  • Having found a briefcase containing a large sum of money, I couldn’t help but succumb and take it.
  • Grandpa didn’t succumb to yellow fever, fought off the disease and remains alive and well.
  • “He’s probably going to succumb”, said the doctor in a moment of poor judgment.
  • Before his attack, there wasn’t a chance for success and the forces would surely succumb.
  • We must not succumb and solve every problem with the climate.
  • The temptation was too great, the two lovers had finally succumbed to each other.
  • Despite feeling dizzy, he succumbed to the temptation of yet another drink.
  • You must not succumb to peer pressure and be your own person.

Succumb – synonyms

Since ‘succumb’ has more than one meaning, it can be sometimes tricky to pick the correct synonym. Depending on the context in which ‘succumb’ is used, different words will be synonymous with it. For your convenience, we have split them up into three categories.

Words synonymous to ‘succumb’ in the context of yielding to something: be conquered, be defeated, be overcome, break down, capitulate, cave in, cease, give in, give way, show the white flag, submit to, throw in the towel, quit, yield.

Words synonymous to ‘succumb’ in the context of death and illness: decease, fall victim to, die, go down, go under, pass away, perish.

Words synonymous to ‘succumb’ in the context of positioning the body in a certain way: bow, break down, collapse, drop, fall.

Everything to know about ‘succumb’

To sum up, ‘succumb’ comes both from Latin and Old French. It has two primary meanings and one more nuanced. These are ‘to yield’, ‘to die (especially of an illness)’, and less common ‘to take up a hunched position’. The word isn’t too popular in everyday speech and can be considered quite formal.

Now you should know where ‘succumb’ comes from, what it means, when and how to take advantage of this word. Getting to know new words will help you broaden your vocabulary, make your speaking more varied and enrich your writing. Most certainly you will find it useful.

We hope you found this article interesting. Who knows, maybe ‘succumb’ will be your word of the day. If you would like to learn more about foreign languages, consider taking one of our language courses. We provide services for companies as well as for private individuals. Detailed information about our offer can be found on our website.