re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Definition of recidivism

: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior especially : relapse into criminal behavior

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Recidivism means literally "a falling back" and usually implies "into bad habits." It comes from the Latin word recidivus, which means "recurring." Recidivus itself comes from the Latin verb recidere, which is a composite of the prefix re- and the verb cadere (meaning "to fall") and means "to fall back." Recidivists tend to relapse, or "fall back," into old habits and particularly crime. Deciduous and incident are two other English words that have roots in cadere. Deciduous comes from the verb decidere (de- plus cadere), which means "to fall off." And incident comes from incidere (in- plus cadere), which means "to fall into."

Examples of recidivism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The recidivism rate in New Jersey is just shy of 30 percent. New York Times, 31 Dec. 2021 Newsom has long advocated for reducing recidivism through educational opportunities and mental health programs instead of enacting new tough-on-crime laws that have historically swelled California’s prison population. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2021 The group of people who were given buprenorphine since April 2020, Nielsen said, are showing a 17% recidivism rate. IndyStar, 16 Dec. 2021 Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry says the program has a less than four percent recidivism rate. Sabrina Eaton, cleveland, 7 Dec. 2021 Officials on Wednesday defended the new stance on corporate recidivism, which drew skepticism from white-collar defense lawyers gathered at an annual conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Dylan Tokar, WSJ, 1 Dec. 2021 This entrepreneur set out to solve a worthy societal problem, and according to a recent PBS article, Café Momentum participants’ recidivism rate is 15.2% compared to Texas’ 48.3%. Kent Gregoire, Forbes, 12 Nov. 2021 Gascón points to data that shows lengthy sentences increase recidivism and thus make the public less safe — a direct rebuttal to those supporting the recall in the name of public safety. Tim Arango New York Times, Star Tribune, 19 June 2021 Gascon argues the sentencing enhancements increase recidivism. Michael Lee, Washington Examiner, 17 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'recidivism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of recidivism

1884, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for recidivism

borrowed from French récidivisme, from récidiver "to reappear (of a disease, tumor, etc.), do over, commit a second criminal offense" (going back to Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin recidīvāre "to relapse into sin or crime") + -isme -ism — more at recidivate

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The first known use of recidivism was in 1884

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Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Recidivism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for recidivism


re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsid-ə-ˌviz-əm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Medical Definition of recidivism

: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior high recidivism rates after cessation of smoking— A. E. Kazdin et al.


re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Legal Definition of recidivism

: relapse into criminal behavior

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