Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

The Difference between Exceed and Accede

The words ‘exceed’ and ‘accede’ are pronounced more or less the same way and they have similar roots. To make matters worse, they are both verbs. However, their meanings are different, they are typically used in different contexts, and they typically appear with different words, so it can be easy to tell them apart once those parts are memorized.

Both ‘exceed’ and ‘accede’ come from the Latin verb ‘cedere’, which means ‘to go’, and one tense of it, ‘cedo’. ‘Exceed’ comes from the combination of ‘cedo’ with the prefix ex-, which means ‘forth’. Put together, ‘excedo’ means ‘to go forth’, ‘to pass a boundary’, or ‘to transgress’.

‘Accede’ was formed by putting the ad- prefix, meaning ‘to’, ‘toward’, or ‘at’ together with ‘cedo’.  Together, they form ‘adcedo’, also spelled ‘accedo’, which among other things means ‘to approach’, ‘to join’, ‘to agree to’, or ‘to undertake’. Both of these words were eventually adopted into English with different spellings and pronunciations.

‘Exceed’ means to be greater than some defined limit. This can be both good and bad. For example, something could turn out better than expected. In positive situations, it is a synonym for ‘surpass’.

“You’ve exceeded my expectations.”

It could also mean that it has passed a boundary that someone cannot or should not go past. This is often a synonym for ‘overstep’, though not in all situations.

“Your password cannot exceed twenty one characters.” 

As an intransitive verb, meaning one where there is no object or where the subject is also the object of the verb, it means to be the best or to be very good at something.

“I exceed when I am given ample room to work with.” 

‘Accede’ is a word that is mainly used in formal situations. Many of the definitions are ones that only come up in situations that are often business-related or political. First, it can mean agreeing to a proposal or to a view.

“He advised the members of his party to accede to their opponent’s bill.”

Second, it can mean reaching a particular office or assuming a new position.

“As she acceded to a seat in Congress, she vowed to do her best for the people of her state.” 

Finally, related to the first definition, it can mean to become a party to a treaty or another form of agreement.

“Acceding to the defense treaty meant that they had the protection of many other nations if they were attacked.”

One way to tell the words apart is by the words around them. When the word ‘accede’ is used, most of the time it will be followed by the word ‘to’. Some older definitions do not have the ‘to’ after it, but these are not often used nowadays and many of the ones used today do follow this rule. The phrase ‘exceed to’ rarely appears in speech, so if there is a ‘to’ following it, then it will almost always be ‘accede’. The context is fairly limited for the word ‘accede’, as well, since it is nearly always used in a political or other formal context. While ‘exceed’ is not used often outside of set phrases, as there are more common synonyms for it, it is used more of the time.

To summarize, ‘exceed’ means to pass a certain limit, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. The word ‘accede’ means to agree to or become a party of an agreement, or to take office. While the words sound similar and ‘exceed’ is used more often, a person will most often accede to something, so there is almost always a ‘to’ behind it.


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