Seize vs Cease? When to Use Each and When Not To

seize vs cease

Certain words in the English language might seem to have similar meanings. But if you try to understand them better, you’ll realize how unique the two terms are despite the similarities. The words “seize” and “cease” seem to confuse people for this exact reason – they are similar, yet so very different.

The term “seize” means “to grab hold of something”, usually abruptly or violently. The word “cease” denotes “concluding” or “bringing a stop to a thing”. “Seize” is used in texts to signify “capture” or “holding onto a tangible thing”. “Cease” is often used in contexts not entailing individuals or things.

To be honest, it’s not that difficult to distinguish between the two. However, one cannot deny that confusion does occur. If you are quite confident of what these two words mean individually but still cannot completely rule out the possibility of using them incorrectly in specific contexts, keep reading. 

seize sign pointing to the right

“Seize” – Definition 

The word “seize” denotes “taking possession or control of something”. 

Though relatively straightforward in what it means, the term can assume slightly different meanings based on the context or the phrase it gets used in. For example, “seize an idea” means “to grasp mentally” or “understand completely and clearly”, which doesn’t necessarily align with the term’s literal meaning.

Though not standard usage, “seize” could also mean “resorting to a plan or method in desperation”. For example, “She must seize on a right solution, regardless of how risky it is”. “Seize” may not sound grammatically correct in the sentence because it’s rarely used in texts assuming that meaning.

Another alternate meaning is “taking mental possession of”. For example, “The alarm seized the crowd for a brief moment”. “Seize” could also mean “exhibiting seizure activity symptoms”. If you didn’t notice, most of the alternate or other meanings of the term are “figurative” in essence.

“Seize” was first used as a proper term during the 1250s. The roots or the inspiration for the word are not crystal-clear or well-documented. Quite a few words from various ancient languages such as Old French, Middle English, Medieval Latin, etc., could be sharing their spellings with “seize”, and perhaps their meanings.

Some words related to or synonymous with “seize” include “snatch”, “catch”, “commandeer”, “confiscate”, “arrest”, “capture”, “occupy”, “ambush”, etc.

“Cease” – Definition 

The term “cease” means “to discontinue” or “to end”. If it were to be explained in a single word, the words “end” and “stop” almost perfectly encapsulates the spirit of “cease”. Other terms or phrases closely related to or maybe even synonymous with “cease” include “close”, “conclude”, “break off”, “finish”, “expire”, “terminate”, and so on.

“Cease” differentiates itself from its related terms by implying or applying to specific conditions, states, existence, etc. Also, it denotes closure carried out gradually. The associated terms may not be able to transmit that always.

For example, the word “stop” denotes “abruptness” or “a sudden and abrupt halt in operations or progress”. “Cease” doesn’t imply that. In other words, “She stopped his car when the light turned red” sounds correct. “She ceased his car when the light turned red” doesn’t sound right.

The Confusion Between “Seize” and “Cease” 

Regarding their spellings and definitions, “seize” and “cease” do not cause many misunderstandings. However, because the verb “seize” could also be used to mean “stop” – for instance, in “seize up” – things can get a bit commingled.

Not to mention, the two verbs sound the same when pronounced, and that could lead to using one term in place of the other mistakenly or perhaps due to direct oversight.

As indicated above, the words do not mean the same. But because their definitions are related or connote “stoppage” or “ending”, an occasional mix-up between the terms is at times unavoidable.

If the discrepancies between the two terms in their spellings and meanings are not helping much with delineating the two words, remember that “seize” is mainly used in contexts describing or referring to an “individual” or “moments”. “Cease”, on the other hand, primarily deals with “things” or “inanimate objects”.

cease word in wooden blocks yellow neon

Using “Cease” in Writings 

The word “cease” is a verb. Unlike most other verbs, however, “cease” can be used in texts as a transitive verb or an intransitive verb. The following are a few sentences in which “cease” is used as a transitive verb:

  • The theater will cease to exist if not for the donations from its patrons.
  • She ceased to regret the decision to relocate to her hometown.
  • Her paintings never cease to enchant us.

A transitive verb depends on an object to complete a sentence or get the message across. That object could be a noun, pronoun, phrase, etc., denoting a thing or individual affected by the verb’s action. In the above sentences, “cease” conforms to the rules and, therefore, qualifies as a transitive verb. 

Also, “cease” can be used as an intransitive verb. For example: 

  • The humming ceased.

An intransitive verb is “actionable” or an “action verb”. As demonstrated in the above sentence, it does not require an object to act upon or complete a given sentence. It can stand on its own. In case you were wondering or confused, the term “humming” in the above sentence is a subject and not an object. 

The term “cease” is typically used in contexts wherein the need to stop something wrong or destructive is prevalent. The noun “cease-fire”, for instance, is a commonly used term that denotes “temporary suspension of a war-like situation”. 

Not to mention, “cease and desist” is a common phrase, meaning “to stop (anything) immediately”. The term is typically used in official or legal texts or contexts exhibiting a sense of authority. For example, “The state issued the cease-and-desist order”.

Using “Seize” in Texts 

When used as a transitive verb, “seize” implies “taking control, possession” or “holding on to someone or something”, mainly through capture, confiscation, clutch, arrest, affliction, apprehension, etc. Here are a few sentences where “seize” is used as a transitive verb:

  • Her properties were seized by the authorities due to non-payment.
  • His movies seize the public’s imagination.

In the sentences above, “properties” and “public’s imagination” are objects. 

The word “seize” is also commonly used in phrases such as “seize the day”, which means to “pluck the day” if the meaning of its origin or the Latin term “carpe diem” is to be considered. The phrase also implies “doing things right away; or when there’s the slightest of possibility and not waiting for the right time to come or the opportunity to present itself”. 

The verb is also often followed by “up”, a grammatical particle or the word that helps “seize” impart meaning more effectively. For example: 

  • The car engine’s pistons seized up.

Without “up”, “seize” may not have communicated the intended meaning as effectively. 

The same phrase can also be used figuratively – for example: 

  • His brain seized up after the interviewer asked the question.

Knowing how to incorporate the term “cease” in texts literally and figuratively is imperative to use it right.

Example Sentences with the Term “Seize” 

The following is a list of sentences employing the term “seize” in different contexts:

  • If you’d like to hit your fitness objectives, stop with these lame excuses and seize your opportunities.
  • The cops seized his weapons.
  • They tried seizing his funds.
  • Whether they do the same old politics or seize the opportunity to make a statement is for the people to find out.
  • It was a big moment, and she did the right thing by seizing it.
  • The king was keen on seizing the ship as information about the vessel containing wealth had leaked a day before.
  • She seized his hat and headed for the train.
  • The army seized the vulnerable town.
  • The officer could have seized the artillery.
  • He could not let his sense of pleasure seize him for fear of self-destruction.  
  • She saw Tim seize the wolf.
  • There were attempts made to seize her, but she somehow managed to find refuge.
  • Those happy moments seized us.
  • Seize the right moments as they do not come by every other day.
  • The airport was seized by the enemy troops in a surprise siege.

Example Sentences with the Word “Cease” 

Here are sentences employing the term “cease”:

  • Cease the inappropriate use of the term in your texts.
  • Women should cease to consider themselves as weak and powerless because they are not.
  • He has ceased communication with her for more than a year.
  • The office ceases to exist.
  • The commander ordered his battalion to a cease-fire with immediate effect.
  • The company has decided to cease all its EU operations in a year.
  • Workplace nurseries shall cease to be tax liable.
  • We hope to see such practices ceasing forthwith.
  • The newspaper ceased publication due to a lack of funds.
  • The business was forced to cease its operations.
  • The infighting ceased gradually.
  • The war, at last, has ceased.
  • Do not overuse antibiotics as they may then cease to work or be useful anymore.
  • If you cease to be fair, you’ll never be great.

girl makes frame of the sunset with her hands


To conclude, “seize” and “cease” have distinct meanings. They should, therefore, not be confused or used interchangeably in sentences. “Cease” is generally used to imply “discontinuation” or “stoppage” of something. “Seize” denotes “the act of taking control or possession”. Being clear about the individual meanings of the term is often all that’s needed to learn to differentiate them.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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