Consume versus Subsume?

After reading the definitions of both, I can’t see how these words differ, however, given their prefixes, I assume they must.

Could someone explain to me the difference between ‘consume’ and ‘subsume’, either in definition or their typical usage?

In particular, I’m referring to their usage in relation to absorption of another item.


Per Merriam-Webster, subsume has only one sense:

transitive verb

: to include or place within something larger or more comprehensive : encompass as a subordinate or component element • red, green, and yellow are subsumed under the term "color"

games and team sports are subsumed under the classification of “recreation”

However, consume has nine different senses:

transitive verb

1 : to do away with completely : DESTROY • Fire consumed several buildings.
2 a : to spend wastefully : SQUANDER • consumed his inheritance on luxuries
b : use up • Writing consumed much of his time.
3 a : to eat or drink especially in great quantity • consumed several bags of pretzels
b : to enjoy avidly : DEVOUR
 • . . . mysteries, which she consumes for fun . . . —Eden Ross Lipson
4 : to engage fully : ENGROSS • consumed with curiosity
5 : to utilize as a customer • consume goods and services

intransitive verb

1 : to waste or burn away : PERISH
2 : to utilize economic goods

Regardless of which of the senses of consume may be equated with absoprtion, none of them have the same specific meaning as subsume.

Even looking only at sense 3 a, although you might consume three hot dogs, it would be awkward to say that you subsume them (within your body). Eat would be a synonym of this sense of consume, but it wouldn’t be a synonym of subsume.

Also in the absorption sense, subsume generally means that something continues to exist as part of a larger whole, but consume generally means that something is destroyed in the process.

Source : Link , Question Author : Hiphop03199 , Answer Author : Jason Bassford

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