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  1. British. a tax, assessment, or lien.
  2. (in Scotland) a land tax.
  3. (in Ireland) a military assessment.
  4. (in India) an import or sales tax on a commodity.
verb (used with object)
  1. British. to tax; assess.

Origin of cess1

1400–50; late Middle English; aphetic variant of obsolete assess assessment, noun use of assess (v.)


noun Irish English Informal.
  1. luck (usually used in the expression bad cess to): Bad cess to them!

Origin of cess2

First recorded in 1855–60; perhaps aphetic variant of success
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cesses

Historical Examples

  • The washing water and chloride of lime are then to be worked down the gutters, into the sinks, cesses, or natural watercourses.

    On the cattle plague: or, Contagious typhus in horned cattle. Its history, origin, description, and treatment

    Honor Bourguignon

British Dictionary definitions for cesses


  1. British any of several special taxes, such as a land tax in Scotland
  2. (formerly, in Ireland)
    1. the obligation to provide the soldiers and household of the lord deputy with supplies at fixed prices
    2. any military exaction
  1. (tr) British to tax or assess for taxation
  2. (formerly in Ireland) to impose (soldiers) upon a population, to be supported by them

Word Origin

C16: short for assessment


  1. an Irish slang word for luck bad cess to you!

Word Origin

C19: probably from cess 1 (sense 2)


  1. short for cesspool
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cesses



"tax, levy," 1530s, short for assess (q.v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper