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As a noun, both succession and successor mean "people who inherit something."

Do they have the same meaning? Is one used for people?

4 Answers 4

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Basically, a successor is the person next in succession. So succession is the strain of people that will inherit. The successor is one of them. I think most often successor is used for the one that actually inherits (the first in succession), but it might also be used for anyone in the succession.

This is what Webster says.

Succession (1):
a : the order in which or the conditions under which one person after another succeeds to a property, dignity, title, or throne
b : the right of a person or line to succeed
c : the line having such a right

Successor:
one that follows; especially : one who succeeds to a throne, title, estate, or office

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    It might be useful to think of a successor as a member of or participator in a succession.
    – BobRodes
    Jul 4, 2013 at 17:56
  • sky, so, differently from "successor", "succession" is not used in reference to persons?
    – user114
    Jul 4, 2013 at 18:26
  • Well, the succession is a group of persons, whereas the successor is only one out of this group. Succession is not used in reference to one single person.
    – skymningen
    Jul 5, 2013 at 6:23
  • sky, so, if "succession is a group of persons", there is no difference between "succession" and "successors"?
    – user114
    Jul 5, 2013 at 12:29
  • It is more that the succession is including all of the successors. It is "the line" of them. It is kind of an ordered group. A group with meta-information about each person in it (their position in the succession).
    – skymningen
    Jul 5, 2013 at 12:31
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The successor is the person. The succession is the act (of a person "succeeding").

So they are related, but not the same.

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Context and examples are always useful. Also my opinion (not tested) is that successor and succession are as often used in a business or organizational context these days, maybe more so than for talking about the UK monarchy.

Successor (person that replaces predecessor in a company), see Bloomberg

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said his successor and the U.K. banking industry have unfinished business to do in reforming the financial system and reviving the U.K. economy.

Succession planning (planning for a business to continue, should it lose key people), see news.BBC.co.uk

The London Stock Exchange has said it has begun "succession planning" over who will replace its chief executive Dame Clara Furse.

But yes, you can also talk about the line of succession to the throne, see Wikipedia

The line of succession to the British throne is the ordered sequence of all those people eligible to succeed to the throne of the United Kingdom

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I think it is worth extending a little bit on skymninge's answer.

In the case of succession, we can indeed conclude that succession can have the same meaning as successors. The only difference is that succession refers to the abstract concept which can take on the meaning of the people that represent that concept, whereas successors directly refers to the people who execute the action described by the concept.

This sounds complicated, but it is actually quite a common phenomenon in English.

In case of simple actions that are not too abstract, we will make a very clear distinction between the verb (e.g. drive), the action as a noun (driving) and the person doing it (driver).

For more complex or abstract actions, the distinction between the action and the actor may fade away. When we look at the verb administer, we chiefly use that to mean to apply something. However, in the noun administration we find the meaning of “keeping track of what needs to be done”. The word is used both for the process of administration of a company or club (and includes taking care of (written) communication and taking care of the archives) and for the administration of a country (as in the U.S. administration).

In both those cases, administration does not only refer to the abstract concept, but also to the people that do it. We do usually not even consider using the word administrator for any individual member of the U.S. administration, although technically I guess we could. (We can call them members of the administration, though).

Similarly, government can refer to the concept of governing a country, as well as to the group of people that actually do the job.

The same goes for management. We can call the collection of managers (people responsible for a company's management) the management of a company.

In sports, when a coach selects the members of his team, that process is called selection. And yet again, we can call the players that are selected the selection.

Another common example is delegation. That is the process of appointing someone to do a job, but it can also refer to a group of people that have been given a job to do.

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