re·​ca·​pit·​u·​late ˌrē-kə-ˈpi-chə-ˌlāt How to pronounce recapitulate (audio)
recapitulated; recapitulating; recapitulates

transitive verb

: to retell or restate briefly : summarize
recapitulate the main points of an argument
He is best when commenting on the words of others; he is worst when attempting to recapitulate the history of sports or boxing.Arthur Krystal
To recapitulate the ten presidential elections since 1952 does not in itself advance our understanding of the huge changes taking place in American political behavior.Bernard A. Weisberger
: to give new form or expression to
With massive, forbidding bulwarks, crenellated parapets, watchtowers buttressing the corners of the walls, his notion of a prison recapitulated the forms of medieval fear and paranoia.John Edgar Wideman
: to repeat the principal stages or phases of (a process, such as a biological process)
This chapter dwells on the recurring theme that carcinogenesis recapitulates embryogenesis …Shi-Ming Tu
: to reproduce or closely resemble (as in structure or function)
… the animal model should recapitulate if not the entire human disease phenotype, then at least the key attributes under study.Thomas A. Milne
The field of tissue engineering aims to recapitulate native tissue function toward replacing damaged or diseased tissues and organs.Jennifer K. Lee et al.

intransitive verb

: to make or be able to make a summary : sum up
To recapitulate, at the center of a black hole … there resides a singularity: a region in which time no longer exists …Kip S. Thorne

Did you know?

Capitulation originally meant the organizing of material under headings. So recapitulation usually involves the gathering of the main ideas in a brief summary. But a recapitulation may be a complete restatement as well. In many pieces of classical music, the recapitulation, or recap, is the long final section of a movement, where the earlier music is restated in the main key.

Examples of recapitulate in a Sentence

To recapitulate what was said earlier, we need to develop new ways to gain customers. We understood your point, there's no need to recapitulate.
Recent Examples on the Web In some sense, says Povinelli, these chimps may be recapitulating the evolutionary drama that produced self-awareness in some ape-human ancestor. Karen Wright, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 Like many secretaries of state, Blinken wants to recapitulate Henry Kissinger’s legendary shuttle diplomacy of the mid ’70s. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 10 Feb. 2024 Throughout their conversation, both Musk and Shapiro recapitulated their views on a number of hot-button themes. Natalia Ojewska, Fortune, 22 Jan. 2024 Bass recapitulates the trial testimony of Fleming Brien, who, as a 19-year-old Anzac private from Sydney, sustained a shrapnel wound while fighting in the wilderness outside Singapore. Michael Washburn, National Review, 31 Dec. 2023 But given that Ukraine has not advanced on the battlefield for over a year, negotiations held now risk, at best, recapitulating the diplomacy behind the ineffective Minsk agreements, which ended the Donbas war of 2014–2015 without constraining Russia’s will to control Ukraine. Liana Fix, Foreign Affairs, 28 Nov. 2023 Themes of oppression, vengeance, and resistance are developed and recapitulated throughout, and there’s also a strange coda, in which Scorsese himself turns up. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 19 Oct. 2023 Building slowly to the atom-bomb spectacle, blending the Trinity test site at Los Alamos with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Nolan recapitulates the abominable terrorist stunts of his Batman movies. Armond White, National Review, 21 July 2023 By recapitulating this structure, a computer can do anything nature can. George Musser, Quanta Magazine, 6 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'recapitulate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin recapitulatus, past participle of recapitulare to restate by heads, sum up, from Latin re- + capitulum division of a book — more at chapter

First Known Use

1556, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of recapitulate was in 1556

Dictionary Entries Near recapitulate

Cite this Entry

“Recapitulate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


re·​ca·​pit·​u·​late ˌrē-kə-ˈpich-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce recapitulate (audio)
recapitulated; recapitulating
: to give a brief summary : summarize

More from Merriam-Webster on recapitulate

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