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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Did You Know?

Recidivism means literally "a falling back" and usually implies "into bad habits." It comes from the Latin word recidivus, which means "recurring." "Recidivus" itself came 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 company has pledged to become more transparent and invest at least $3 million this year to reduce recidivism rates. Tyler J. Davis, Detroit Free Press, "Why Detroit Pistons' Tom Gores says it's a 'blessing' to own prison telecom firm," 29 Dec. 2020 Police in Durham, England used data from credit-scoring agency Experian, including income levels and purchasing patterns, to predict recidivism rates for people who had been arrested. Dina Bass,, "What Are Algorithms and Are They Biased Against Me?," 11 Dec. 2020 Ward said the main goals should be to improve supervision of offenders and reduce recidivism. Mike Cason |, al, "New Alabama paroles director: Bureau part of fix for ‘broken’ criminal justice system," 24 Dec. 2020 Boyd and other advocates argue such electronic communication should only bea supplement to in-person visits, which research has shown help reduce recidivism. Grace Toohey,, "Proposed limits on e-communication for Florida prisoners raise censorship fears," 20 Nov. 2020 Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute has a recidivism rate of less than 1%. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Edwins’ Chrostowski to receive Rotary Club of Cleveland’s Community Service Award," 11 Nov. 2020 In 2018, Trump signed the First Step Act, which gave judges more discretion in sentencing, eased mandatory minimum sentences and encouraged inmates to participate in programs that aimed to reduce recidivism. Stephanie Pagones, Fox News, "Trump vs. Biden on policing, criminal justice: Where they stand," 3 Nov. 2020 The ultimate goal was to decrease mass incarceration at federal prisons and reduce recidivism. cleveland, "Coronavirus has dominated the election. But what happens on the other important issues if Biden or Trump wins? Analysis," 25 Oct. 2020 Kent Mendoza, a criminal justice reform advocate and community activist who works to reduce recidivism, said he was shot himself with a projectile after the Lakers game, suffering a serious injury to his wrist. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, "Calls to restrict police use of projectiles on crowds renewed after latest L.A. injuries," 20 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for recidivism

Time Traveler

The first known use of recidivism was in 1884

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Recidivism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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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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