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Access vs. Excess

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

English can be a confusing language—for native and non-native speakers alike. Many words that have completely different meanings are both spelled and pronounced very similarly. The words access and excess are good examples of just how confusing certain English words can be.

In this article, I will discuss the origin, meaning and usage of these words.


The word access originated from Middle English (in the sense ‘sudden attack of illness’): from Latin accessus, from the verb accedere ‘to approach’ (see accede). Sense 1 of the noun is first recorded in the early 17th century. The word excess originated from late Middle English: via Old French from Latin excessus, from excedere ‘go out, surpass’.

Access as noun:

The word access is used as a noun in English language where it means the means or opportunity to approach or enter a place.

The staircase gives access to the top floor.

Access also means an attack or outburst of an emotion.

I was suddenly overcome with an access of rage.

Access as verb:

Access is also used as a verb which means to approach or enter (a place).

Single rooms have private facilities accessed via the balcony.

To obtain or retrieve (computer data or a file) is also known as access.

Information can be accessed from several files and displayed at the same time.

Excess as noun:

Excess is used as a noun which means an amount of something that is more than necessary, permitted, or desirable.

Are you suffering from an excess of stress in your life?

Lack of moderation, especially in eating or drinking is also termed as excess.

He had bouts of alcoholic excess.

Excess as adjective:

As an adjective, excess is used to mean exceeding a prescribed or desirable amount.

Trim any excess fat off the meat.


These steaks are for dinner, but you can give any excess to the dogs.

I sold the entire inventory so there no excess left.

Many factory workers were excessed during the recession.

My apartment has easy access to the fire escape.

I won a backstage pass with access to the restricted area of the show.

Access or excess:

These two words may sound similar, but excess vs. access actually have very different meanings. Access means the ability to or means of approaching or entering a place. Associate this word with accessible. Excess means extra or more than necessary. There is a good memory aid that can help you remember the difference between these two words. Excess means something extra or exceeding the required amount. Excess and extra both start with ex, so if you associate these two words together, it makes it easy to remember. You can also associate the word access with the word accessible for a memory trick.

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