What Does Cease and Desist Mean?

Cease and Desist Meaning

Definition: Stop what you are doing.

If someone tells you to cease and desist, he or she is instructing you forcefully to halt what you are doing immediately. This command is a way of showing extreme frustration and annoyance.

People will generally not say, “cease and desist” as a first attempt to ask someone to stop. They will most likely politely request that someone end the activity that is bothering them first.

You are more likely to hear cease and desist shouted loudly and angrily.

Origin of Cease and Desist

Define cease and desistThis comes from a legal term. A cease and desist letter may be sent to someone partaking in an illegal activity.

The two terms in the letter describe what the person receiving such a letter must do. To cease something is to halt, or stop it. To desist is to not do that activity ever again in the future.

When someone receives a cease and desist letter, it is a warning to that person that legal action may be forthcoming. If people do not stop what they are doing after receiving a cease and desist letter, they may be sued or taken to jail.

Examples of Cease and Desist

Meaning of cease and desistWhen one company is using a name or logo that belongs to another company, they may be told to cease and desist. With this action, the company that owns the original information is threatening that they will sue if current actions are not stopped.

People may also say, “cease and desist” in place of the word stop. For example, if someone sees another person about to throw something that could potentially hit and hurt someone else, he may yell, “Cease and desist immediately!” This lets the other person know not to throw the object.

More Examples

  • Candice Crawford, CEO of the legitimate Mental Health Association of Central Florida, said her organization’s attorney has sent a cease-and-desist request to the host of the [web]site, which is apparently based outside the United States. –Orlando Sentinel
  • Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has not yet responded to a cease-and-desist letter from the city of Phoenix regarding the alleged unauthorized use of city police officers in an ad that began airing recently, according to city officials. –ABC News


Cease and desist is a formal and sometimes legal way to say stop what you are doing immediately.