The Word is “Succumbed”

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A reader asks:

Does the word “sucummbed” really exist? As in “he finally sucummbed to the cold and lay face down in the snow”…

What’s interesting about this question is not that succumbed is misspelled, but that this reader kept encountering this misspelling as he tried to find a definition.

Ordinarily when I type a misspelled word into the Google box, for example, “Tolkein,” I get the question “Did you mean: Tolkien?” at the top of the search page.

When I typed in “sucummbed,” the question “Did you mean succumbed?” did not appear. Numerous entries with the “sucummbed” spelling did.

Succumbed comes from a Latin word meaning “submit, sink down, lie under.” In modern usage it can mean to submit to a superior force:

The beautiful old tree-lined streets succumbed to the community’s desire for a shopping mall.

It can also mean to lose a fight against a disease or some other physical attack:

After ten months of painful chemotherapy she succumbed to cancer.
He succumbed to wounds received in Iraq.

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11 thoughts on “The Word is “Succumbed””

  1. One of the biggest problems today, it seems, is that people cannot spell. We are suffering from an epidemic of a form of illiteracy in that our language is shrinking into sound bites, convenient spelling (lite, nite, etc.) and terse exchanges. As our language shrinks so does our capability for intense and deep communication. With George Bush in the leadership role for so long we saw this kind of problem at the very top of our system. Now, with the world of the internet, we get to see how great numbers of people fail to engage in intelligent, articulate communication. The basics of spelling and grammar are falling into oblivion to the point wherein even intelligent, “educated” people cannot spell or follow the rules of our language. Common words are now difficult for people to understand. Statistics show that few Americans read even a book a year. Americans are not even familiar with their own language.

  2. You will have the same experience if you search for “allot of.” Google has about 1.33 million references to “allot of.” That’s a lot of entries.

    This problem is not confined to 8-year-old bloggers. Here’s one amusing quip from a 25-year-old writer: “Allot of money that I helped raise, allot of man hours that me and my friends put in, allot of my reputation went into this project.”


  3. @Vic: I completely agree with the rest of your point, but “With George Bush in the leadership role for so long we saw this kind of problem at the very top of our system…”: The man got an MBA from Harvard. :/ I’m sorry, I’m just tired of the Bush-bashing.

    I know high schoolers who cannot use a dictionary because they can’t spell the word they’re looking for. Very few people I know realize that “surprise” has two r’s.

    The world is falling apart. D:

  4. thanks alot i often read this word at online forums…but i was confused about its meaning…now i got it..


  5. Hi,

    Even in Portuguese you write with a single “m” (sucumbir) meaning as to die. But not with double “cc” as in English: Succum…

    Please go ahead!

  6. I too am tired of the Bush-bashing. As to the questions regarding spelling, I understood my high school English teacher to say that when enough people accepted mis-spelling, it was acceptable.

  7. The best way foward in tackling this problem is to inculcate the culture of reading among ourselves.

  8. I have come across frequently the word of succumbate,
    is this true for usage of vocabulary for succumbed.

  9. It may very appear to be a back-step in culture and literacy that we are seeing today but
    I think this is English’s natural progression. I’m sure that Shakespeare would have shuttered at how Dickens wrote. He would have likely thought him an illiterate fool!

    Is it truly necessary to spell night with the “gh”? Why does Phonics start with a “P”? “I” before “e” except after “c” (many, many exceptions apply). Granted if I hear one more person wanting to axe a question or tell me to “Have a good one” I may just lose my mind but allowing our language to evolve is necessary. I for one would love to see a simplification in spelling and grammar as our language evolves, perhaps it is the disparity between written and spoken language that keep people from reading.

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