The Many Cognates of “Cede”

By Mark Nichol

The word cede and words with the syllable -cede share an origin with other similarly spelled words that in some sense refer to withdrawal. This post lists and defines those terms.

Cede, meaning “assign,” “grant,” or transfer, is just one of multiple words descended from the Latin verb cedere, meaning “go” or “yield.” The term cession, which refers to an act of ceding, or yielding is rare. Concession is more common in that sense; the verb form is concede, and concessional and concessionary are the uncommon adjectival forms. (“Concession stand” and the plural form of the noun describe business operations in which one party grants another party the right to sell goods on the first party’s property.)

Accede (“go to”) means “agree,” “approve,” or “consent,” with the sense of doing so reluctantly, or “take an office or position,” and the noun form is accession. To intercede (“go between”) is to intervene or mediate; the act of doing so is called intercession. Precede (“go before”) can refer to being ahead of or in front of, earlier, or more important. The noun form precedence applies to the quality of priority; another noun form, precession, is rare but is seen in “precession of the equinoxes,” a reference to an astronomical phenomenon.

To recede (“go back”) is to move away or slant backward, or to decrease (it can also mean “give something back to the former owner”); most references to the noun form recession pertain to a general decline in economic prosperity. Recedence is a rare term for the act of going back.

To secede (“go apart”) is to separate, as part of a nation from the whole; the noun form is secession.

Several other words share the root -cede, but with altered spelling, such as proceed (“go before”), which means “advance,” “come forth,” or “continue.” The noun procedure describes a set of steps, or a way, to accomplish something, and proceeding can be both a form of the verb or, in plural form, a noun describing a sequence of events. The noun proceeds refers to money brought in, and procedural serves both as an adjective and as a noun describing a work of written or recorded fiction that focuses on a sequence of procedures such as the steps taken in solving a crime.

Two other nouns derived from proceed are process, a synonym, as a verb, of proceed and, as a noun, of procedure (in addition, the noun process refers to a prominent part of an organism), and procession refers to a forward movement, especially an orderly, often ceremonial parade of people. (It can also be a verb referring to such a movement.) Processable and processability, meanwhile, refer to the capability or suitability of something to be processed.

Succeed (“go after”) means to do well (and the act of succeeding is called success), but it also pertains to inheriting from or following another person in order; this action is known as succession, and one who follows is a successor. To exceed (“go from”) is to go beyond or extend outside of or to be greater than; excess refers to the act of going beyond but has a negative connotation.

Words that don’t seem at all related but are include abscess (“go away”), which refers to pus collecting in a cavity within inflamed tissue, and ancestor (“one who goes before”), which means “one from whom one is descended”—the adjectival form is ancestral, and the noun ancestry refers to one’s forebears—and antecedent (“go before”), which means “something that precedes.” To cease (“hold back”) is to stop (and cessation refers to the act of stopping), and decease (“go from”) means “death,” though it is much more often used as a verb to mean “die.” (One who dies is a decedent.)

Predecessor (“one who goes before”) refers to someone who has preceded another person in a position; it is an antonym of successor. Necessary (“not go”), too, derives ultimately from cedere; it means “inescapable” or “required.”

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8 Responses to “The Many Cognates of “Cede””

  • Dale A. Wood

    Thank you, Venqax for your last two comments.
    So that is how you spell “Cession”. There have been several other large cessions in American History.
    I. Some of the following was inspired by a trivia question on TV about which states became states w/o ever being U.S. territories first. (This is ignoring the original 13 states.) First, New Hampshire and New York gave up all claims on the land of Vermont, and it became the 14th state in 1791. Then in the future, these states were never territories, of parts of one like the Northwest Territory or the Louisiana Territory: Maine, Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, and California. Texas was admitted directly as the Republic of Texas ended, and California was admitted to the Union in 1850 directly from the Mexican Cession.
    II. The pertinent states of the original 13 ceded their western lands to the Federal government with the aim of having future states created. This cession began with Virginia’s relinquishing all claims northwest of the Ohio River. All other claims to that land were given up by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, except that Connecticut “reserved” part of northeast Ohio to be given to veterans of the Revolutionary War. That was where the term “Western Reserve” came from.
    III. Virginia also ceded all of the land for Kentucky, in 1792, to become the 15th state – w/o every needed to be a territory. Also, North Carolina ceded all of the land for Tennessee, which became a state in 1796. Furthermore, Georgia ceded its western 2/3 to become Mississippi and Alabama. South Carolina never did have any valid claim to western lands, though there are some old maps that mistakenly extended South Carolina all the way to the Mississippi River.
    For the first year or two of the new country, there were actually a congressional district or two of Georgia that extended into Alabama. Then Congress made all of that land into the Territory of Mississippi.
    IV. There was the Spanish Cession of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico following the Spanish-American War. However in this case it was to cede those places to the supervision and protection of the United Sates. As planned, Cuba became independent very quickly, and then decades later, the Philippines became independent in 1946, as promised, despite World War II. Guam has willingly remained American property, and the people of Puerto Rico have repeatedly voted to remain in a commonwealth with the United States.
    V. The United States and Canada have repeatedly avoided conflict over our common border. In 1816, the Great Lakes were effectively demilitarized. Then in 1818, a mutual treaty established the 49th parallel as the northern border of the Louisiana Territory all the way from northern Minnesota to the Continental divide. In this agreement, the U.S. ceded some land to the British Empire, and the British/ Canadians ceded some land to the U.S. to make for a simple boundary line.
    Next came the question of the Oregon Territory, all of which was claimed by both the U.S. and by Canada. An amazingly simple compromise was reached: They extended the same 49th parallel line from Montana all the way to Puget Sound, with the agreement that all of Vancouver Island would be Canadian. Very handy, especially since the City of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, lies south of the 49th parallel. It might be a little confusing because the huge city of Vancouver on the mainland is not the capital city, but rather Victoria is, and Victoria sits on Vancouver Island. “V”, “V”, “V”,…

  • venqax

    As a Knight Commander of the Grand Order of Orthoepy (GOO), I am obligated to point out that “accede” is pronounced AK-seed. NOT ASS-eed. C’s before consonants hard (including other C’s), C’s before E’s soft. This rule is so rigid it even applies to FLAK-sid.

  • venqax

    The Mexican Cession is one standard, albeit not exactly common, application of the noun “cession.” It refers to the vast territory– including California (maybe unfortunately)– the US acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Someday, we might get it straightened out about all of these:
    {cedare, cede, sede, supercede, supersede, & super seed!}.

  • Dale A. Wood

    We are still having trouble with text getting dropped for no particular reason.
    Hence, part of it should have read as follows…
    words descended from the Latin verb cedere, meaning “go” or “yield.”
    As you wrote: With this in mind, “to supersede”, or “to supercede”, meant “to go ahead of”, “to get ahead of”, “to advance before”, and that evolved into the modern meaning of “to become superior to and to replace”.

  • Dale A. Wood

    In my first note, the crazy text system dropped a whole line:
    words descended from the Latin verb cedere, meaning “go” or “yield.”

    Hence, part of it should have read as follows:

  • Dale A. Wood

    The old joke or cartoon about “supersede” is that a very smart farmer was going to supersede all of the others in his region by using “super seeds”. LOL.

    A few decades ago, there was a push to establish a sperm bank with the vital substance being provided by winners of the Nobel Prize and other such awards. I guess that the idea was to use “super seeds” in that realm, also. LOL.

  • Dale A. Wood

    O.K. I was thinking about an old joke, but then I had to look some things up by using a Web browser. There are dictionary sources on the Web that say that “supercede” is an alternative spelling of “supersede”.
    1. to take the place of (a person or thing previously in authority or use); “The older models have now been superseded.”
    Also, the meanings of the “cede” and the “sede” are related.
    As you wrote: With this in mind, “to supersede”, or “to supercede”, meant “to go ahead of”, “to get ahead of”, “to advance before”, and that evolved into the modern meaning of “to become superior to and to replace”.
    Nowadays, NASA is designing and developing a new kind of manned spacecraft to supercede the Space Shuttle (STS).
    Maybe the “sede” word came directly from Greek, rather than coming from Greek via Latin; or perhaps “sede” came from one of the many dialect of French or Italian that have existed over the centuries.
    I have read that not all of the words that came into English with the Norman conquest (in the year 1066), but some came later in new waves from new dialects that had evolved in French. Also, Italian is a language that used to have so many regional dialects, including the ones centered around Florence, Milan, Torino, Venice, Messenia, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Pisa, etc. I thin that the dialect of Milan finally won out. (A similar thing happened in Japan, where the dialect of Tokyo became standard, and it is used by radio & TV broadcasters all over Japan, just like there is the BBC dialect in the U.K.)
    Oh, well, there are many different ways that “cede” could have become “sede” in some words. We also have “tion”, “cion”, and “sion” for different words, but all with the same sound, as in “elevation”, “suspicion”, and “suspension”.
    It is enough to elevate your suspicions to a state of suspension!

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