In The Markenmore Mystery (1922) by J. S. Fletcher, Blick, a detective-sergeant, was thinking about the way by which someone had entered and left Markenmore district. Firstly he studied the railways and trains, and then he turned to studying the roads and motor-cars.

And on turning to his time-table, Blick discovered that between four and six o’clock in the morning, there were, taking these four stations altogether, a respectable number of trains going north or south, east or west, and that from two stations, the junction aforesaid and the one to the north, there were at a quarter to six every morning, workmen’s special trains, which doubtless conveyed large numbers of craftsmen, artisans and labourers into the big shipping port a few miles away on the coast. Altogether, he saw that a smart, astute man would have no difficulty in getting away unobserved from the Markenmore district by an early morning train, in any one of at least six separate directions.

Turning again to the question of access and excess by the roads, Blick remembered what Walkinshaw had said about the facilities which the district afforded for successfully hiding a motor-car while its owner or occupant paid a visit.

The whole context and the previous discussions spoke of "entering the region and getting away from it", and "access" may mean "enter", so can "excess", by any chance, mean "exit" or something like that? or does it simply mean "crossing the boundaries of the region"?

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    FWIW: "late Middle English: via Old French from Latin excessus, from excedere ‘go out, surpass’, from ex- ‘out’ + cedere ‘go’." It's possible there might be some historical usage of the word to mean "exit", but I can't find any similar example in Google Books, even in works before 1800. Probably the author just misused it instead of using something like "ingress and egress"
    – muru
    Apr 7, 2021 at 3:28

1 Answer 1


The words "access" and "excess" ultimately derive from Latin. The Online Etymology Dictionary has the following entry for access (emphasis added):

(...), from Old French acces "onslaught, attack; onset (of an illness)" (14c.), from Latin accessus "a coming to, an approach; way of approach, entrance," noun use of past participle of accedere "to approach," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + cedere "go, move, withdraw" (from PIE root *ked- "to go, yield"). English sense of "an entrance" (c. 1600) is directly from Latin. (...)

(PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical common ancestor of Latin, the Romance languages, Germanic languages such as English, and a number of other languages.)

Note the root "-cedere" in the Latin verb, "accedere", which we also find in the etymology of excess (emphasis mine):

"a going beyond ordinary, necessary, or proper limits; superfluity; undue indulgence of appetite, want of restraint in gratifying the desires; the amount by which one number or quantity exceeds another," late 14c., from Old French exces (14c.) "excess, extravagance, outrage," from Latin excessus "departure, a going beyond the bounds of reason or beyond the subject," from stem of excedere "to depart, go beyond," from ex "out" (see ex-) + cedere "to go, yield" (from PIE root *ked- "to go, yield"). (...)

While "access" is still used as a synonym for entrance, "excess" is not used for the opposite movement (or egress, which also has a Latin root, as it derives from "ex" + "gressus").

However, not even Samuel Johnson's dictionary, which was first published in 1755, lists "egress" as a meaning of "excess", and the Webster dictionary of 1913 does not list it either. Based on this, it is extremely unlikely that this meaning was in use when J. S. Fletcher published The Markenmore Mystery in 1922. Either the author or the character is being overly pedantic by basing the meaning of "excess" on an etymology that was irrelevant to actual usage at the time.


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