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From Anglo-Norman surseser, from Old French sursis, past participle of surseoir, from Latin supersedere. Spelling later influenced by association with unrelated cease.



surcease (countable and uncountable, plural surceases)

  1. Cessation; stop, stopping; end. Respite, intermission.
    • 1589, Francis Bacon, “An advertisment touchinge the controversies of the Church of England”, in Frank J. Burgoyne, editor, Northumberland Manuscripts[1], London: Longmans, Green & Co, published 1904, page 36:
      And first of all, it is more then time, there were an ende and surcease made of this immodest and deformed manner of writting latelie entertained, whereby matter of religion is handled in the stile of the stage.
    • c. 1606 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Macbeth”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene vii]:
      It it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly: if the assassination / Could trammel up the consequence, and catch / With his surcease success;
    • 1845 February, — Quarles [pseudonym; Edgar Allan Poe], “The Raven”, in The American Review[2], volume I, number II, New York, N.Y.; London: Wiley & Putnam, [], →OCLC:
      [] vainly I had sought to borrow / From my books surcease of sorrow
    • 1875, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Morituri Salutamus”, in The Masque of Pandora, and Other Poems[3], Boston: James R. Osgood, page 90:
      [] old age is still old age.
      It is the waning, not the crescent moon,
      The dusk of evening, not the blaze of noon:
      It is not strength, but weakness; not desire,
      But its surcease; not the fierce heat of fire,
      The burning and consuming element,
      But that of ashes and of embers spent []
    • 1910, William Dean Howells, chapter 6, in My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms[4], New York: Harper & Bros., page 23:
      [] the time came when he sickened of the whole affair, and withdrew his agent, and took whatever gain from it the actor apportioned him. He was apt to have these sudden surceases, following upon the intensities of his earlier interest []
    • 1934 July 27, George Herriman, Krazy Kat, comic strip, →ISBN, page 199:
      [Joe Stork, delivering a baby via taxiplane:] Why should I wear my wings out, when modern ingenuity offers surcease?
    • 1970, Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Bantam Books, page 217:
      For the individual who wishes to live in his time, to be a part of the future, the super-industrial revolution offers no surcease from change.


surcease (third-person singular simple present surceases, present participle surceasing, simple past and past participle surceased)

  1. (intransitive) To come to an end; to desist.
    • c. 1591–1595 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Romeo and Ivliet”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene i]:
      [] this distilled liquor drink thou off; / When presently through all thy veins shall run / A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse / Shall keep his native progress, but surcease:
    • 1899, Zénaïde A. Ragozin, Frithjof, The Viking of Norway in Frithjof, The Viking of Norway and Roland, The Paladin of France, Tales of the Heroic Ages, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Chapter 9, p. 67,[5]
      And instantly the storm surceases, the heavens clear, the sun comes forth in splendour, as a king entering the audience-hall, and sheds the glory of his presence over ship and sea and land.
  2. (transitive) To bring to an end.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Hackett, published 2006, Book III, Canto Four, Stanza 31, p. 79:
      The waves obedient to theyr beheast,
      Them yielded ready passage, and their rage surceast.
    • 1697, John Dryden, (translator), Virgil’s Æneis, Book 12, lines 1024-1025, in The Works of Virgil, Volume 3, 5th edition, London: Jacob Tonson, 1721, p. 985,[6]
      The Nations, over-aw’d, surcease the Fight,
      Immoveable their Bodies, fix’d their Sight: