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 program’s low rate of recidivism for crime and drug use has drawn national acclaim. New York Times, "She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh?," 4 June 2018 Though 95 percent of those relocated are criminals, only 10 percent re-offend, an admirably low recidivism rate. Popular Mechanics, "How the Witness Protection Program Decides Where To Send People," 8 Feb. 2019 Other states, however, have seen drops in recidivism for those who go through the program. John Caniglia,, "Parenting in prison: Ohio nursery offers inmate moms, children a chance to bond," 4 Mar. 2018 While recent legislative efforts are designed to curtail recidivism, many ex-convicts end up back behind bars. Zolan Kanno-youngs, WSJ, "‘I Thought I Was Done For’: Tight Job Market Opens Doors for Ex-Convicts," 19 Dec. 2018 In the battle to combat recidivism (or, a return to crime post-release) those under 25 have become a focal point—at once some of the most violent inmates and the most vulnerable. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "Inside a Radical Experiment to Transform the Lives of Incarcerated Women," 22 Aug. 2018 With the philosophy that teaching the inmates new skills will improve their prospects once released and reduce recidivism, the district and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office this year expanded their portfolio of vocational course offerings. Alia Malik, San Antonio Express-News, "Jail inmates responding to education opportunities," 28 Apr. 2018 This year’s winter meeting heavily focused on promoting criminal-justice reform and anti-recidivism programs. Jim Geraghty, National Review, "Koch World Faces Year Two of the Trump Era — and the 2018 Midterms," 29 Jan. 2018 There’s limited data on the long term benefits of restorative justice, but initial studies suggest participant satisfaction and a lower recidivism rate. Isobel Yeung, Glamour, "For Some Sexual Assault Survivors, Justice Looks Like a Sit-Down With Their Assailant," 16 Oct. 2018

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

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Last Updated

11 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for recidivism

The first known use of recidivism was in 1884

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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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Spanish Central: Translation of recidivism Encyclopedia article about recidivism

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of or relating to a parable or parabola

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