Surpass vs Supersede: Correct Usage with Examples

Surpass vs Supersede: Correct Usage with Examples

Words convey various meanings to various people; but this does not fundamentally change the meaning of a word in terms of Semantics, which has to do with meaning from the perspective of connotation. However, at the level of Pragmatics, which deals with meaning in context, words can mean anything from the perspective of the user. The post Surpass vs Supersede: Correct Usage with examples focuses on the appropriate use of these two words which most people misuse.

Let me give you an example: Charles Dickens, a British novelist, in The Pickwick Papers, said, ‘It’s my opinion, sir, that this meeting is drunk.’ The way this surprises you is also the way someone gets surprised when you use ‘surpass’ when you should use ‘supersede’. So let us examine these words closely…

Surpass vs Supersede: Correct Usage

There is nothing categorically wrong with these two words but the way we tend to use them is what brings the error. Many use the word ‘supersede’ to mean ‘surpass’ in their expressions. Harry S. Truman, a former US President said in one of his quotes, ‘It is ignorance that causes most mistakes…’ But ignorance is not an excuse! Have you heard some people say?

  • The strength of an elephant supersedes that of a cow.
  • The speed of a Bugatti supersedes that of a Ferrari.
  • A doctor supersedes a teacher in terms of social prestige.

Now, what these people actually meant to say would become clearer when you the word ‘surpass’ supersedes ‘supersede’. (I intentionally used the word ‘supersede’ in the correct sense). Let us examine the meanings of these two words severally

Supersede: A Definition

The word ‘supersede’ is a transitive verb which means to ‘replace or take the place of something that is less efficient, less modern, or less appropriate, or cause something to do this’. It also means, in the formal sense, to ‘succeed somebody or something in a role, office, or function’. A good synonym for the word is ‘supplant’, which also means ‘to take the place of something, especially something much used, inferior, outmoded, or irrelevant’.

What Does Surpass Mean?

On its own part, the word ‘surpass’ means to ‘exceed expectations, that is, go beyond what was expected or hoped for, usually by being bigger, better, or greater. In another sense, it means to ‘do better than somebody or something’. In a formal sense, it means to ‘be beyond somebody’s ability to deal with or understand’.

When you put into account these two words, as we explain above, you will certainly agree that people misuse them, taking supersede to mean surpass. To put both words in proper perspectives, let us use them appropriately for clearer understanding in the following sentences:


  • Cars are superseding buses on the highways.
  • Mobile cellular phones have superseded land phones.
  • Flat screen televisions have superseded cathode ray televisions.
  • He was selected to supersede her as the new director.
  • The new creed will supersede all existing forms of belief.
  • To supersede all the unauthorised editions, he submitted his own version.
  • Some believe robots should supersede in modern restaurants.
  • There have been attempts to supersede Euclid as a textbook on Geometry.


  • In the Northern Alps, the pine forests rarely surpass the limit of 6000ft.
  • The eagles comprise many species, but none to surpass the golden eagle of Europe.
  • For a couple of centuries his reputation equalled, if it did not surpass, that of his master.
  • The Roman remains of Verona surpass those of any other city of northern Italy.
  • He set a new school record in swimming and hoped that nobody would surpass his accomplishment.
  • Their love could surpass any distance that was between them.
  • My sister’s piano skills continued to surpass mine, even though we practised the same amount.
  • The health ministry predicted the epidemic to surpass the country’s medical capability soon because it is spreading so rapidly.


Do not forget the statement of Charles Dickens. Ensure you avoid all instances of misuse when it comes to the words ‘surpass’ and ‘supersede’. Above all, avoid every form of misuse of words. Check some other posts on this site that addresses some words commonly confused and commonly used wrong words

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