Elderly woman succumbed to injuries...

is common to describe that the woman died because of the injuries.

Cambridge Dictionary's style is to highlight (boldface) the proper prepositions that a particular word in concern takes.

Say - succumbed (verb) which means to 'die'

Thousands of ​cows have succumbed to the ​disease in the past few ​months.

Cows died because of the disease. So, it is - succumbed to + the reason of death

But then, I see many headlines that read 'succumbed to death'. And they mean that someone 'died'.

My question is - what does 'succumbed to death' mean? Just 'death' (then why use 'succumbed to') or 'death because of' (but then, succumbed to [reason (and not the word 'death')] is expected)!

  • 9
    I have never seen "succumbed to death" and I feel it is entirely wrong. When you succumb to something you are conquered by it, and death may be the outcome.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 11:15
  • 1
    To me, this phrasing sounds very odd, almost redundant. A bit like saying someone was "killed to death". Without stating the cause of death first (or at least having it well understood from context), it almost seems like you're saying death itself was its own cause.
    – Ajedi32
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 17:59
  • succumb means "give in" so it literally means that someone gave in to death
    – user43243
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 22:42

4 Answers 4


It's simply a matter of perspective, I think. If I am battling cancer, I am fighting death, and I can lose in my struggle against either death or the disease.

Succumb simply means to surrender or yield. When I'm feeling drowsy, I can succumb to sleep; when I'm on the verge of a moral lapse, I can succumb to temptation.

NOAD lists both meanings, not as two separate meanings, but with one as a "sub-meaning" of the other:

succumb (verb)
fail to resist (pressure, temptation, or some other negative force) : he has become the latest to succumb to the strain.
• die from the effect of a disease or injury.

The very helpful Etymonline website says the use of succumb meaning "to die from" goes back to the mid-1800s:

Originally transitive; sense of "sink under pressure" is first recorded c. 1600. As a euphemism for "to die," from 1849.

By the way, I agree with you, in that I can see why "succumbed to her injuries" seems like a curious use of the word. But it's a widely accepted use, and has been for some time.

  • 1
    The problem with using the second definition (i.e. to die from) is that then, "he succumbed to death" means "he died from death". Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 10:28
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    @chaslyfromUK - that's why I think "succumbed to death" is using the primary sense of the word, not the secondary.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 11:13
  • 1
    @chas - Have you ever seen anyone on their deathbed for a protracted time? If we can succumb to sleep, and succumb to temptation, there's no reason we couldn't succumb to death as well – no capitalization required.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 11:46
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    @J.R. - I have as a matter of fact. However that doesn't persuade me. Maybe the problem for me is that a disease can be resisted and indeed overcome (by means of the immune system for example), whereas no-one can resist death. If, for example your heart fails, you can do little to resist that. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 12:09
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    @chaslyfromUK: I don't think that abstracting something necessarily requires personifying it, and I think it's possible to succumb to the abstraction of death without personifying it. As such, "succumb to death" and "succumb to Death" have different allusions but each is expressing something about dying. For that matter, if Disease (or Pestilence) is a member of Death's regular pony-trekking group, then "succumb to disease" and "succumb to Disease" likewise differ as to whether or not they personify the abstraction. Resisting death is pretty much what living things do full-time ;-) Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 12:16

The link on "many headlines" shows a lot of pages that do not seem to be written by native English speakers. Actually, it looks like "succumbed to death" is primarily used by Indian speakers of English. Perhaps it is a new phrasing not found in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.

To get back to your question:

My question is - what does 'succumbed to death' mean?

Based on the context, "succumbed to death" clearly means "died" in the places it is used online. Why is "died" not used instead? That is an excellent question which could be applied to many turns of phrase. In this case, "succumbed to death" seems like a phrase that is not logical but that people feel has a sound that they like, so they keep using it. Think about the phrase "future plans". All planning, by definition, is about future events or actions, so saying "future plans" is redundant and doesn't make logical sense. Still, we see the phrase "future plans" used a lot: Example Example Example

When it comes to English style and usage, we can talk about grammar and logic and rules all we want, but we can't always explain why people say or write what they say and write. A lot of the time, it just doesn't make sense.

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    +1 for noting that "succumbed to death" links are from non-native sources, like Africa, Latin America etc. Sounded wrong to me, and I am not even a native speaker :-) Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 19:27

I think that there may be two ways to use this word: the American way and the right British way.

My understanding (as a Brit) is that to 'fail to resist something' is the correct interpretation.

  • You can fail to resist an illness and die. -> Succumb to the illness and die.
  • You can fail to resist the temptation and eat the cream doughnut - > succumb to the temptation and eat.

Therefore, 'succumb to death' or 'succumb to a cream doughnut' would be inappropriate.

Viewing the comments so far, my feeling is that there is a UK/US divide on this.

  • 3
    FWIW I'm British and I'm on the "wrong" side of the divide. I think "resisting a doughnut" is fine. I probably wouldn't actually say "succumb to a doughnut", but I don't object to it either. However, it's a figurative expression, in that it ascribes to the doughnut an active force which must be resisted, whereas of course we know that literally a doughnut is an inanimate object, and the active force is indeed the person's own desire for the doughnut. But non-literal != inappropriate. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 13:27

Succumbed to death means he died from his injury from an accident he was in.. It sounds better than if he died or got killed at the accident he was involved in. It's a way of saying he met his death no further questions have to be explained end of story. Succumbed to death is he had a reason to die because of his injuries. .. Succumbed to death by his injuries or disease is he could die and if he does die there is a plan he would not be succumbed to death because of it being known.

  • The question isn't asking what the phrase means: it's asking why anyone would use it. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 6:05

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