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

Examples of succumb in a Sentence

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 Twelve of the people on board are killed instantly, including all three crew members, with several others succumbing to injuries in the days that follow. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Sep. 2023 McCartney raved about the former in an Instagram post saluting Buffett, who succumbed to a four-year battle with cancer on Sept. 1 at age 76. Spin Staff, Spin, 8 Sep. 2023 The additions to the memorial wall bring the total number of FDNY members who have succumbed to post-9/11 illnesses to 331, which is nearly equal to the number of firefighters killed in the Twin Towers on the day of the attacks. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 7 Sep. 2023 The question is on my mind today, the anniversary of the death of the German pianist and conductor Lars Vogt, who succumbed to esophageal cancer on September 5, 2022, just three days shy of his fifty-second birthday. Max Norman, The New Yorker, 5 Sep. 2023 She was provided medical aid and transported to the hospital but later succumbed to her injuries. Ellie Willard, The Arizona Republic, 30 Aug. 2023 Fitzgerald, their bassist, succumbed to his injuries in the hospital hours later. Elisabeth Garber-Paul, Rolling Stone, 6 Sep. 2023 The three Colorado family members whose bodies were found severely decomposed earlier this summer in Colorado succumbed to both hunger and the elements, according to autopsy reports. Abigail Adams, Peoplemag, 2 Sep. 2023 Many drown trying to cross the Rio Grande; others succumb to sweltering desert conditions or a lack of water, with their deaths ultimately attributed to dehydration, heat stroke or hypothermia. Edgar Sandoval, New York Times, 31 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'succumb.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 30 Sep. 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

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