Printable Version
Pronunciation: su-pêr-seed Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Displace, override, transcend, take precedence. 2. To take the place of, replace, supplant. 3. (Law) To delay, postpone.

Notes: Here is a word that has been misspelled supercede since the 17th century. People tend to associate it with excede, precede, and intercede. Fewer think it belongs with proceed and succeed, and spell it superceed. It comes with three action nouns, supersedence, supersedure, and supersession and one personal noun superseder. The present participle, superseding seems to be preferred as an adjective over the obvious supersedent.

In Play: The basic sense of this word is "displace": "The landed aristocracy of the days when the Constitution was written has long since been superseded as the ruling class by corporate capitalists." However, it also carried the sense of replace: "Gladys Friday was superseded by Aly Katz as office manager."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a loan (never repaid) from French superséder "delay, defer", inherited from Latin supersedere "to sit upon", hence "to be superior to, refrain from, desist". The Latin word consists of super "over, above" + sede(re) "to sit". Because the difference between [b] and [p] is so slight, some have proposed super to be a combination of sub "(from) under" + -er, a popular suffix in PIE. The combination must have occurred in PIE, because Greek turned the same combination into hyper. Sed- goes back to PIE sed- "to sit", which also underlies Sanskrit sidati "sits", English sit, set, and seat, Icelandic sitja "sit" and setja "set", German sitzen "to sit" and setzen "to set", Spanish sentar "to sit", Scotts Gaelic suidhe "to be sitting" and suidh "to sit (down), Cornish esedha "to sit", Russian sest', sidit "sit, sits (down/up)" and sidet' to be sitting", and Serbian sesti, sedne "to sit, sits". (Now a word of gratitude to our old friend Chris Stewart of South Africa for today's often misspelled Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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