Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 31st, 2015
Episode 93 of 689 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 31, 2015 is: succumb \suh-KUM\ verb 1 : to yield to superior strength or force or overpowering appeal or desire 2 : to be brought to an end (such as death) by the effect of destructive or disruptive forces Examples: Rescuers feared that the missing mountain climbers would succumb to hypothermia. "When I look back on my life . . . I see moments where it might have been understandable had I turned to drugs or ice cream. But I never succumbed. My natural tendency is to be happy." Martin Short, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, 2014 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 us 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 useyielding to a disease or other destructive forcefollowed two centuries later.