I'm looking for a single word to express that a country has declared itself independent from the empire it used to be a part of.

The author has currently used "ceded":

For this reason, [this country] has ceded from the Empire.

However, it's my understanding that "ceded" refers to a (usually involuntary) giving up of territory, i.e. the empire might cede the country to another power:

to allow someone else to have or own something, especially unwillingly or because you are forced to do so: Hong Kong was ceded to Britain after the Opium War. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Is there a better word to describe the situation here?

6 Answers 6


I think the writer meant seceded instead. This becomes clear from the Collins dictionary definition below. And you're right about ceded not being the right word in the given context.

If a region or group secedes from the country or larger group to which it belongs, it formally becomes a separate country or stops being a member of the larger group.

[Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.]

  • 1
    That's perfect; thank you!
    – Nams
    Commented Jun 10 at 23:12
  • 1
    I think this is a much closer match to the question, but I've seen the term "decolonization" used to describe the process in general.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 11 at 13:26
  • 5
    Nothing secedes like secession !
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 12 at 14:10
  • 1
    "Decolonization" would apply to someone who has been colonized in the first place. It becomes a political question to distinguish between colonization, settlement, and conquest as descriptions of how the seceding entity became part of the larger entity in the first place.
    – chepner
    Commented Jun 12 at 14:53

It might depend from whose perspective the statement is being made. The country might describe itself as seceding, but the empire might describe it as a rebelling.

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This is more of a modern usage, but we might call such a nation a breakaway.

a secession of a number of people from an organization, typically following conflict or disagreement and resulting in the establishment of a new organization

  • This could work where a noun is needed, but in this case the context calls for a verb. The definition shared here brings us back to "secede", which fits perfectly.
    – Nams
    Commented Jun 13 at 21:45

During the breakup of the British Empire it was referred to as UDI, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, especially with regard to Rhodesia’s secession in 1965.

  • 1
    I'm not convinced that's a single word, however. Commented Jun 13 at 12:47

It might be interesting to read the Proclamation of Rebellion, issued by King George III. It uses a number of words, such as "rebellion", "seditious" and "traitorous". From Wikipedia

The Proclamation of Rebellion, officially titled A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition, was the response of George III to the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill at the outset of the American Revolution. Issued on 23 August 1775, it declared elements of the American colonies in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". It ordered officials of the empire "to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion". The 1775 proclamation of rebellion also encouraged subjects throughout the empire, including those in Britain, to report anyone carrying on "traitorous correspondence" with the rebels to be punished

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    One man's secessionist is another man's seditionary. Commented Jun 11 at 22:01

To cede territory is to give up one's claim to it. Early in the history of the U.S.A. some states ceded some of their territory to the federal government voluntarily. In the treaty of 1783 that ended the war of American independence, Britain ceded Vermont to the U.S.A. (But Vermont's government didn't recognize that and continued to consider itself independent of the U.S.A. until 1791.) (It's in Article II of the treaty, which doesn't mention Vermont by name, but says the parties agree that the boundaries of the U.S.A. are as follows: . . . )

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