noun (1)
re·​ces·​sion | \ ri-ˈse-shən How to pronounce recession (audio) \

Definition of recession

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act or action of receding : withdrawal
2 : a departing procession (as of clergy and choir at the end of a church service)
3 : a period of reduced economic activity


noun (2)
re·​ces·​sion | \ (ˌ)rē-ˈse-shən How to pronounce recession (audio) \

Definition of recession (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act of ceding back to a former possessor

Other Words from recession

Noun (1)

recessionary \ ri-​ˈse-​shə-​ˌner-​ē How to pronounce recessionary (audio) \ adjective

First Known Use of recession

Noun (1)

circa 1652, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1828, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for recession

Noun (2)

re- + cession

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Time Traveler for recession

Time Traveler

The first known use of recession was circa 1652

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Statistics for recession

Cite this Entry

“Recession.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for recession



Financial Definition of recession

What It Is

A recession is two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product (GDP)

How It Works

Let's assume that there has been a significant decline in industrial production, employment, and wholesale or retail trade. These things may cause GDP to decline for a three-month period (a quarter). If the situation continues in the next quarter, most economists will declare that the economy is in a recession.

The effects of a recession are far-reaching. Employment levels fall, discretionary income falls, and overall consumer spending falls, leading to tough times for most companies, which in turn lay off more workers and reduce overall consumer spending further. Few businesses expand and few consumers spend money, which lowers the demand for loans. Interest rates usually fall, as banks try to encourage consumers to take out loans.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has identified 32 recessions in the United States since the mid-1850s.

Why It Matters

Recessions are a normal part of the business cycle, but government fiscal and monetary policies often play key roles in making sure recessions do not go on for long. These policies involve increasing or decreasing government spending on entitlement programs and public works projects that create jobs, and they may involve changing bank reserve requirements, the interest rate at which the Federal Reserve lends money to banks, or the purchase or sale of Treasury securities.

Source: Investing Answers


re·​ces·​sion | \ ri-ˈse-shən How to pronounce recession (audio) \

Kids Definition of recession

: a period of reduced business activity


re·​ces·​sion | \ ri-ˈsesh-ən How to pronounce recession (audio) \

Medical Definition of recession

: pathological withdrawal of tissue from its normal position advanced gum recession

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