Supercede v Supersede (Merriam Webster v OED)


Supercede v Supersede (Merriam Webster v OED)

Update: apparently it’s supersede – no contest.

According to the Shorter OED (5th Edition):

“supersede: Also (earlier) -cede L15.  [Old French superceder, later -seder, from Latin supersedere (in medieval Latin freq. -cedere) set above, be superior to, refrain from, omit formed as SUPER- +sedere sit.]”

Merriam Webster (online) asserts:

Supercede has occurred as a spelling variant of supersede since the 17th century, and it is common in current published writing. It continues, however, to be widely regarded as an error.”

So, both prefer -seded, and this is closer to the root. MW admits common usage then sort-of asserts -cede to be an error.  OED just says -cede is a variant (not an error).

Microsoft Word, by the way, marks it as an error.

[Update: Merriam corrected]

12 Responses to “Supercede v Supersede (Merriam Webster v OED)”


  1. 1 Toby Ovod-Everett 4 June 2013 at 7:42 am

    I think the reason I always want to spell it “supercede” is because I think of it pairing with “cede.”

  2. 2 Rob Ross 31 August 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Excellent read, thank you! I’m commenting on this is because I’m not a bot and I can sympathize with receiving a bunch of spam comments. And to thank you for the info of course.

    Google Keywords “supersede vs supercede” (without quotes) brought me here, very nice.

  3. 3 Patrick Carroll 13 September 2013 at 7:04 am

    I don’t know why we have adhere to usages that are largely accidental in their origin. If we have precede it is logical to use supercede.

    • 4 Scyla 17 September 2013 at 4:52 pm

      That is precisely my reasoning Patrick Carroll. “To cede” and “precede” are both correct, so why would supercede be incorrect?

    • 5 An 23 January 2015 at 1:24 am

      That assumes precede and supersede have the same etymology, which doesn’t seem to be the case. Precede is from cedere “to go” and supersede is from sedere “to sit”. As they’re different it makes sense the spellings remain different!

  4. 6 Tony 23 January 2015 at 10:37 pm

    User “An” is correct above (pun not intended). I studied Latin and English at school and as a “Grammar Nazi” of note, I am devastated that the “C” has been superSeded. *sheds a tear* :-(

  5. 7 Marco Nerva 9 June 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Fantastic explanation! Really helpful.

  6. 8 Tim Strafford-Taylor 10 December 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Yes thank you. I have always used supercede…. but I may have to mend my ways….

  7. 9 Thai 29 December 2015 at 10:16 pm

    supersede = replace; supercede = precede
    From the Latin “sedeo/sedere” [ = to sit on top of], not “cedo/ceders” [= to walk (over)].

  8. 10 Susan Conforti 24 January 2016 at 4:02 pm

    If Thai is correct, then may I suggest that the article ‘s “Update” line be revised?


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