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The noun is derived from Middle English socour,[1] interpreted as the singular form of socours (help; encouragement; remedy; protection; helper, protector),[2] which is from Anglo-Norman socurs, sucurs and Old French secors, secours, (modern French secours), from Medieval Latin succursus (participle), from Latin succurrēre (to run to the help of), from Latin sub- (from below) + Latin currere (run).[3]

The verb is derived from Middle English socouren (to help),[4] from Anglo-Norman socure (compare modern French secourir), also from Latin succurrēre.



succour (countable and uncountable, plural succours) (British spelling)

  1. (uncountable) Aid, assistance, or relief given to one in distress; ministration.
    • 1579, Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], “Februarie. Aegloga Se[c]unda.”, in The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], →OCLC; republished as The Shepheardes Calender [], London: [] Iohn Wolfe for Iohn Harrison the yonger, [], 1586, →OCLC, folio 6, verso:
      Now ſtands the Brere like a Lord alone, / Puffed up with pryde and vaine pleaſaunce: / But all this glee had no continuaunce. / For eftſoones Winter gan to approche, / The bluſtring Boreas did encroche, / And beate upon the ſolitarie Brere: / For nowe no ſuccour was ſeene him neere.
    • 1583, George Whetstone, A Remembraunce of the Life, Death, and Vertues of the Most Noble and Honourable Lord, Thomas Late Erle of Sussex, [] VVho Deceased at Barmesey the 11th of June 1583, London: Imprinted by John Wolfe & Richard Jones, →OCLC; republished as A Remembraunce of the Life, Death, and Vertues of the Most Noble and Honourable Lord, Thomas Late Earle of Sussex (Frondes Caducæ)‎[1], [Auchinleck, East Ayrshire]: Reprinted, at the Auchinleck Press, by Alexander Boswell, 1816, →OCLC:
      His hand, that oft the enemy did lame, / He reach't to thoſe whoſe ſuccors were diſmayde; [...]
    • 1588, G. D., A Briefe Discoverie of Doctor Allens Seditious Drifts, Contriued in a Pamphlet Written by Him, Concerning the Yeelding Vp of the Towne of Deuenter, (in Ouerrissel) vnto the King of Spain, by Sir William Stanley. [], London: Imprinted by I. W. for Francis Coldock, →OCLC, pages 20–21:
      [I]f it be lawfull for the ſubject, for religiõ [i.e., religion] to beare armes againſt his ſouereigne: then it is much more lawfull for an abſolute Prince, for Religiõ alſo to yeeld ſuccours to her diſtreſſed neighbors, againſt a Stranger.
    • c. 1598–1600 (date written), William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene iv], page 192, column 1:
      Bring vs where we may reſt our ſelues, and feed: / Here's a yong maid with trauaile much oppreſſed, / And faints for ſuccour.
    • 1623 (first performance), John Fletcher, William Rowley, “The Maid in the Mill”, in Comedies and Tragedies [], London: [] Humphrey Robinson, [], and for Humphrey Moseley [], published 1647, →OCLC, Act IV, scene ii, page 18, column 1:
      Wee'll take up cudgels, and have one bowt with 'em, / They ſhall know nothing of this union: / And till they find themſelves moſt deſperate, / Succour ſhall never ſee 'em.
    • 1728, anonymous [incorrectly attributed to Saint Augustine], “An Humble Address to the Son”, in Geo[rge] Stanhope, transl., Pious Breathings. Being the Meditations of St. Augustine, His Treatise of the Love of God, Soliloquies and Manual. [], 6th edition, London: Printed for J. and J. Knapton, [], →OCLC, page 346:
      To Thee therefore, O bleſſed Jeſus, my tender Redeemer, my merciful Lord, I flee for Succour; [...]
    • 1796, “Letter XII”, in Elizabeth Hamilton, transl., Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah; [] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson, [], →OCLC, page 41:
      Fatal propenſity! which preſents a barrier to the wholeſome ſuccours of advice, and cuts off retreat from error.
    • 2014, Jessica O’Bryan, Scott D. Harrison, “Prelude: Positioning Singing Pedagogy in the Twenty-first Century”, in Scott D. Harrison, Jessica O’Bryan, editors, Teaching Singing in the 21st Century (Landscapes: The Arts, Aesthetics, and Education; 14), Dordrecht, Heidelberg: Springer, →DOI, →ISBN, →ISSN, abstract, page 1:
      We sing alone and together for joy, love, enlightenment or entertainment; out of grief, or hate, or for emotional and spiritual succour in a musical manifestation of the human spirit.
  2. (uncountable, military) Aid or assistance in the form of military equipment and soldiers, especially reinforcements sent to support military action.
    • 1690, indicated as Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher [actually John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, and revised by Thomas Betterton], The Prophetess: Or, The History of Dioclesian. [...] With Alterations and Additions, after the Manner of an Opera. [], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC, act IV, scene i, page 43:
      Then Diocleſian, / Calling aloud for Succour to the Guard, / Soon gave 'em the Alarm, and made 'em fly / With all the Wings of Speed, to reſcue 'em; [...]
    • 1741, unknown [formerly attributed to Daniel Defoe], The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies, the British Amazon, commonly called Mother Ross: [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for R[ichard] Montagu, →OCLC, part II, page 2:
      [T]he Allies having raiſed the Siege of Barcelona, penetrated as far as Madrid, which King Philip abandon'd and went to Head the Succours ſent him by France, as he declared in his Manifeſto: which Succours were ſo conſiderable, that being join'd with the Troops that had been compell'd to raiſe the Siege of Barcelona, and had marched through Navarre into Caſtile; his Army was ſtronger than that of the Allies, [...]
    • 1747, [George Sale [et al.]], “Sect. III. The History of the Several States of Greece, from the Beginning of the Achæan League to Its Dissolution, and thence Succinctly to the Present Time. [The History of Achaia.]”, in An Universal History, from the Earliest Account of Time. [], volume VII, London: Printed for T[homas] Osborne, []; A[ndrew] Millar, []; and J Osborn, [], →OCLC, book II (The Grecian and Asiatic History), page 228:
      [T]he Megalopolitans decreed to ſend embaſſadors to the aſſembly of the Achæans, begging leave to ſolicit ſuccours from Antigonus. [...] The general aſſembly, having given audience to the embaſſadors, and reflecting, that they were not in a condition to yield them any effectual ſuccours, by reaſon of their great ſtreights, aſſented to their propoſal, and granted them leave to purſue their orders.
    • 1805, Robert Henry, “The Civil and Military History of Great Britain, from the Death of King John, A.D. 1216, to the Accession of Henry IV. A.D. 1399”, in The History of Great Britain from the First Invasion of It by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a New Plan, 4th edition, volume VII, London: Printed for T[homas] Cadell, and W[illiam] Davies, [], →OCLC, section IV ([F]rom the Accession of Edward III. 24th January A.D. 1327, to the Accession of Richard II. 21st June A.D. 1377), page 224:
      In this critical moment the counteſs mounted a high tower, and looking eagerly towards the ſea, diſcerned a fleet at a diſtance; upon which ſhe cried out in a tranſport of joy, Succours! ſuccours! the English ſuccours! no capitulation. She was not miſtaken: the Engliſh fleet ſoon after entered the harbour, [...]
  3. (uncountable, obsolete except dialectal) Protection, refuge, shelter; (countable) a place providing such protection, refuge or shelter.
    • 1580, Thomas Tusser, “Decembers Husbandrie”, in Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie: [], London: [] Henrie Denham [beeing the assigne of William Seres] [], →OCLC; republished as W[illiam] Payne and Sidney J[ohn Hervon] Herrtage, editors, Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie. [], London: Published for the English Dialect Society by Trübner & Co., [], 1878, →OCLC, stanza 22, page 64:
      The gilleflower also, the skilful doe knowe, / doe looke to be couered, in frost and in snowe. / The knot, and the border, and rosemarie gaie, / do craue the like succour for dieng awaie.

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succour (third-person singular simple present succours, present participle succouring, simple past and past participle succoured) (British spelling)

  1. (transitive) To give aid, assistance, or help.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:help
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:hurt
    • a. 1530, John Skelton, “A Little Boke of Philip Sparow”, in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; [] In Twenty-one Volumes, volume II, London: Printed for J[oseph] Johnson [et al.], published 1810, →OCLC, page 297, column 1:
      [M]y maystres / Of whome I thinke / With pen and ynke / For to compyle / Some goodly stile / For thys moste goodly floure / The blossom of fresh colour / So Jupiter me succour
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto III”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 31, page 227:
      [A]s that famous Queene / Of Amazons, whom Pyrrhus did deſtroy, / The day that firſt of Priame ſhe was ſeene, / Did ſhew her ſelfe in great triumphant ioy, / To ſuccour the weake ſtate of ſad afflicted Troy.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Hebrews 2:18, column 2:
      For in that he himſelfe [Jesus Christ] hath ſuffered, being tempted, he is able to ſuccour them that are tempted.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, 1 Maccabees 12:15, column 2:
      For wee haue helpe from heauen that ſuccoureth vs, ſo as we are deliuered from our enemies, and our enemies are brought vnder foote.
    • 1683, Humphry Smith [i.e., Humphrey Smith], “The Meditations of an Humble Heart: Written Only for Friends, who can Read It”, in A Collection of the Several Writings and Faithful Testimonies of that Suffering Servant of God, and Patient Follower of the Lamb, Humphry Smith, who Dyed a Prisoner for the Testimony of Jesus, in Winchester Common-goal[sic – meaning gaol] the 4th Day of the 3d Moneth, in the Year 1663, London: Printed and sold by Andrew Sowle, [], →OCLC, page 291:
      [T]hou keepeſt thy Flock under the ſhadow of thy Wing, and nouriſheſt them with the choiceſt Food; thou guideſt with the hand of thy Power, and ſuccoureſt them at every needful time, and thou relieveſt their greateſt wants: [...]
    • 1835, “Chapter III. Entitled, the Lineage of Joachim, []”, in The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mahomet. Translated from the Arabic— [], Lancaster, Pa.: Printed for the publisher, by Boswell & M’Cleery, [], →OCLC, page 70:
      Say to the true believers, Sufficeth it not, that God succoreth you with three thousand of his angels? Truly, if you have patience, and fear God, he will come to succor you at need, and your Lord will assist you with five thousand of his angels sent from heaven; [...]
    • 1854, Dante [Alighieri], “Canto XXXIII”, in C[harles] B[agot] Cayley, transl., Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Paradise: Translated in the Original Ternary Rhyme, volume III, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC, page 245, lines 16–18:
      Not him alone, who seeks thy clemency, / Thou succorest, but oftentimes in sooth, / Outrunnest prayer with liberality.
    • 1891, Oscar Wilde, “The Star-Child”, in A House of Pomegranates, London: James R[ipley] Osgood, McIlvaine & Co [], →OCLC, page 154:
      "How shall I reward thee," cried the Star-Child, "for lo! this is the third time thou hast succoured me."
    • 1923, Compton Mackenzie, “The First Sermon”, in The Parson’s Progress, London, New York, N.Y.: Cassell and Company, →OCLC, page 23:
      Mark did actually feel that he was being suffocated, and the silence of the waiting congregation roared in his ears like a flood of waters. [...] His heart beat with such violence that, when he fought his way up and out of the great whirlpool and beheld again the pale, upturned features of his listeners flickering in the homely gaslight, he was astonished that their hands were not stretched out to succour him.
    • 1923 May 5, “‘British Gratitude to Belgium’: The Prince in Brussels”, in The Illustrated London News, London: Illustrated London News and Sketch, →OCLC, page 752, column 1:
      On April 28 the Prince of Wales [later George V] unveiled in Brussels the British monument "offered [as he expressed it] by the British nation as a symbol of its deep and unchanging gratitude towards all those who succoured our prisoners of war and our soldiers in distress."
    • 1960, Einhard, translated by Samuel Epes Turner, The Life of Charlemagne (Ann Arbor Paperbacks; AA35), Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, published 1991, →ISBN, paragraph XXVII, page 55:
      He [Charlemagne] was very forward in succoring the poor, and in that gratuitous generosity which the Greeks call alms, so much so that he not only made a point of giving in his own country and his own kingdom, but when he discovered that there were Christians living in poverty in Syria, Egypt, and Africa, at Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, he had compassion on their wants, and used to send money over the seas to them.
    • 1963, [Laozi], chapter LXVII, in D. C. Lau [i.e., Din-cheuk Lau], transl., Tao Te Ching (Penguin Classics; L131), Harmondsworth, London: Penguin Books, →ISBN; Tao Te Ching (Chinese Classics), 2nd edition, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1989 (1996 printing), →ISBN, book 2, paragraph 165, page 101:
      What heaven succours it protects with the gift of compassion.
    • 2010, Myla Goldberg, chapter 2, in The False Friend: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, →ISBN, pages 6–7:
      Celia had lain less asleep than in a state of suspended animation, succored by the sound of Bella's steady breathing and Sylvie's warmth beside her on the bed.
    • 2019 November, John Calvin, “July 15: Supported by God’s Hands”, in Susan Hill, compiler, Captivating Grace: 365 Devotions for the Reformed Thinker, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, →ISBN:
      The [Holy] Spirit takes on Himself a part of the burden, by which our weakness is oppressed; so that He not only helps and succors us but lifts us up, as though He went under the burden with us.
  2. (transitive, military) To provide aid or assistance in the form of military equipment and soldiers; in particular, for helping a place under siege.
    • 1584, “Gruffyth the Sonne of Lhewelyn ap Sitsylht and Angharat”, in H. Lhoyd [i.e., Humphrey Llwyd], transl., edited by David Powel, The Historie of Cambria, now Called VVales: A Part of the Most Famous Yland of Brytaine, Written in the Brytish Language aboue Two Hundreth Yeares past: Translated into English [], imprinted at London: By Rafe Newberie and Henrie Denham, →OCLC, pages 98–99:
      Shortlie after, Algar Earle of Cheſter, being conuicted of treaſon againſt the king, fled to Gruffyth king or prince of VVales, who gathered his power to reuenge the often wrongs, which he had receiued at the Engliſhmens hands, who euer ſuccoured his enimies againſt him.
    • 1788 May 23, “Copy of the Treaty of Defensive Alliance with Holland”, in [William Cobbett], editor, The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. [], volume XXVII, London: Printed by T[homas] C[urson] Hansard, [] for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; [et al.], published 1816, →OCLC, columns 553–554:
      Mr. Pitt [i.e., William Pitt the Younger] presented, by his Majesty's command, a copy of the defensive alliance between his Majesty and the States General of the United Provinces, signed at the Hague, the 15th of April 1788; and translation. [...] Art 2. In case either of the high contracting parties should be hostilely attacked by any European Power in any part of the world whatsoever, the other contracting party engages to succour its ally as well by sea as by land, [...]
    • 1824, [Eliza Lanesford Cushing], chapter IV, in Saratoga; a Tale of the Revolution. [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, Boston, Mass.: Published by Cummings, Hilliard & Co., →OCLC, page 65:
      [A] shout of joy burst from the despairing remnant of Major Courtland's troops, and a reinforcement of British rushed through the narrow defile to succour their exhausted comrades.
  3. (transitive, obsolete except dialectal) To protect, to shelter; to provide a refuge.


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Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ socǒur, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ socǒurs, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ succour, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1915; succour, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  4. ^ socǒuren, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.