I'd never heard about "to sow" until recently, and I was quite surprised that I couldn't find even a connotation about the difference in meaning from "to seed."

The German word "säen" is translated with both "to seed" and "to sow", neither of them are marked dialect or old-fashioned or anything.

Wiktionary defines them as:

  1. to seed: To plant or sow an area with seeds.
  2. to sow: To scatter, disperse, or plant (seeds).

As a non-native speaker, I fail to see the difference here (especially when one is defined using the other).

In this sense, can they be used interchangeably?

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Nigel J, Phil Sweet, David, curiousdannii Nov 26 '17 at 12:56

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 4
    Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be at least initially addressed using commonly-available references should show signs of such research. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '17 at 11:25
  • There aren't many situations in which they can be used interchangeably. – psmears Nov 24 '17 at 11:42
  • @psmears ... I'm sure you're right that they're less likely to be interchangeable than not, but I can think of at least a few examples where either verb would do. "To sow/seed a lawn", for example. – ArchContrarian Nov 24 '17 at 12:35
  • @ArchContrarian: Yeah, that's why I didn't go for "never" :-) But in general they mostly take a different sort of object (for the most part "sow" takes the "seed" - literal or metaphorical - being sown, and "seed" takes the location they're being planted in), and both (especially "sow") are mostly used transitively. But as you point out, there are some exceptions :-) – psmears Nov 24 '17 at 15:37
  • "to seed" also is used metaphorically outside of plants. For example, "to seed clouds" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_seeding) or also in IT you can talk about seeding in the sense of providing material for a program/function to use or in p2p networks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeding_(computing) – SonOfPingu Nov 27 '17 at 11:05

No, they can't always be used interchangeably. To sow seeds is to put or spread them where you want them to grow, or you can speak of sowing a particular type of plant. You can seed a patch of ground (sow seeds on it), but 'seed' as a verb can also mean to produce seeds (of a plant), to remove the seeds from a fruit, as well as the various metaphorical uses mentioned by User159691.


I would just point out that while you can "sow the seeds", you should not "seed the sows".

  • 9
    'You should not "seed the sows".' Unless you're a boar. – Mick Nov 24 '17 at 12:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.