suc·​cumb sə-ˈkəm How to pronounce succumb (audio)
succumbed; succumbing; succumbs

intransitive verb

: to yield to superior strength or force or overpowering appeal or desire
succumb to temptation
: to be brought to an end (such as death) by the effect of destructive or disruptive forces

Did you know?

If the idea of someone succumbing brings to mind the image of a person lying down before more powerful forces, you have an excellent grasp of the Latin that gave English succumb. Succumb derives from the French word succomber, which is itself from the Latin word succumbere, meaning "to fall down" or "to yield." Succumbere was formed by combining sub-, meaning "under," with -cumbere, meaning "to lie down." The earliest application of succumb in the late 15th century was as a transitive verb meaning "to bring down" or "to overwhelm," but this sense is now obsolete. The current sense of "to yield" first appeared in print in the early 17th century; the more specific use—yielding to a disease or other destructive force—followed decades later.

Choose the Right Synonym for succumb

yield, submit, capitulate, succumb, relent, defer mean to give way to someone or something that one can no longer resist.

yield may apply to any sort or degree of giving way before force, argument, persuasion, or entreaty.

yields too easily in any argument

submit suggests full surrendering after resistance or conflict to the will or control of another.

a repentant sinner vowing to submit to the will of God

capitulate stresses the fact of ending all resistance and may imply either a coming to terms (as with an adversary) or hopelessness in the face of an irresistible opposing force.

officials capitulated to the protesters' demands

succumb implies weakness and helplessness to the one that gives way or an overwhelming power to the opposing force.

a stage actor succumbing to the lure of Hollywood

relent implies a yielding through pity or mercy by one who holds the upper hand.

finally relented and let the children stay up late

defer implies a voluntary yielding or submitting out of respect or reverence for or deference and affection toward another.

I defer to your expertise in these matters

Example Sentences

Lepanto occupies a curious military fault line between ancient and modern. It was fought with galleys almost identical to those that had clashed in this same gulf sixteen centuries before, when the ships of Antony and Cleopatra succumbed to those of Octavian at the Battle of Actium. Colin Thubron, New York Times Book Review, 9 Apr. 2009 Last spring, the Knight Ridder chain succumbed to pressure from its largest private investor and sold off its entire lineup of 32 papers to the McClatchy Co. for more than $4 billion. Eric Klinenberg, Mother Jones, March/April 2007 Yet after Paul died in 1978 and his successor John Paul I succumbed to a heart attack only 34 days into his papacy, Wojyla was so oblivious to his impending fate that he spent the first day of the new papal conclave nonchalantly browsing through a quarterly review of Marxist theory. David Van Biema, Time, 11 Apr. 2005 Interviews with cadets, police officers and investigators trying to crack down on crime inside Mexico City's 80,000-officer force revealed that even the most earnest cops often succumb to the temptations that are both plentiful and low risk. Alan Zarembo, Newsweek, 4 Dec. 2000 They will pressure you, and you must try not to succumb. he finally succumbed and let his wife get rid of his dilapidated easy chair See More
Recent Examples on the Web Journalist Dearen documents the loopholes, the lack of oversight from regulatory boards, and the profit-hungry characters who caused over 100 victims to succumb to a swift and puzzling death at the hands of unknowing doctors. Jennifer Walter, Discover Magazine, 11 Oct. 2020 Harry saw his mother succumb to this cesspool, and wanted to make sure the story was different for his own wife and children. Monica Hesse, Washington Post, 16 Dec. 2022 The holidays are notoriously linked with rising debt levels as people succumb to the pressure of buying the perfect gifts and planning memorable family vacations. Elisabeth Buchwald, USA TODAY, 8 Dec. 2022 One doctor described to Reuters seeing trauma patients succumb to deadly infections because most antibiotics had run out. NBC News, 11 June 2021 As a result, three-day weekend policies will likely succumb to the same voltage drop problem that has afflicted many other policies in the past. Omar Al-ubaydli John A. List, WIRED, 22 Dec. 2022 Stomachs show folds and creases, breasts succumb to gravity, and arms, feet and knees claim much space on the canvas, producing a vertiginous effect. Andy Grundberg, Washington Post, 17 Dec. 2022 Her views may have been shaped by watching her father, an English professor at the University of Michigan, succumb to advanced prostate cancer after a couple of ineffective rounds of therapy when Weeks was a medical resident. Jessica Bartlett,, 12 Nov. 2022 This is a concern for Ken Feng, a 50-year-old blue-collar worker in Shenzhen, who worries that his parents could be among the first to succumb. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'succumb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


French & Latin; French succomber, from Latin succumbere, from sub- + -cumbere to lie down; akin to Latin cubare to lie

First Known Use

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of succumb was in 1604


Dictionary Entries Near succumb

Cite this Entry

“Succumb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


suc·​cumb sə-ˈkəm How to pronounce succumb (audio)
: to yield to force or pressure
succumb to temptation
: die entry 1 sense 1
many of the early settlers succumbed during the winter

More from Merriam-Webster on succumb

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?