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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

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    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
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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.

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

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

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