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 Michigan Department of Corrections plans to close one of its 29 prisons in January, citing a falling prisoner population and a recidivism rate that has dipped to an all-time low. Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Department of Corrections to close Detroit prison in January," 22 Sep. 2020 Owens went on to list statistics about incarcerated youths and the high rates of recidivism for those leaving the juvenile justice system but didn’t answer the question. Eric S. Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "A second look at Burgess Owens’ Second Chance 4 Youth nonprofit," 21 Sep. 2020 Decades of criminology research suggest many inmates can be released with minimal risk of recidivism, Jacobson says. Kelly Servick, Science | AAAS, "Pandemic inspires new push to shrink jails and prisons," 17 Sep. 2020 Green worked as a public defender in Broward for eight years and ran for the top job on a platform of justice, reducing recidivism and protecting the rights of indigent people in the criminal justice system. Amber Randall,, "Broward public defender who was fired the day after losing a bid for her boss’s seat has landed a new job — as a prosecutor," 15 Sep. 2020 Republicans argued that the measure would upend the state’s criminal justice system, which in recent years has posted the lowest recidivism rate in the nation. Washington Post, "Ex-GOP legislator urges Va. delegates to back bill reducing prison sentences after serving his own for fraud," 9 Sep. 2020 Some older people remain a danger to society but recidivism rates for the elderly tend to be very low, around 2-4%. The Economist, "Silver lifers The pandemic is boosting efforts to get the old out of prison," 7 Sep. 2020 The group's recidivism rate is impressive when compared to national statistics. Kathleen Toner, CNN, "Fitness trainer uses his decade behind bars to inspire clients and help former inmates transform their lives," 20 Aug. 2020 Usually, Turning Point Counseling works with inmates considered at risk of recidivism in a classroom setting at the Osceola County Jail to address their post-release concerns and create transition plans. Katie Rice,, "Finding a job even tougher for former inmates during pandemic," 18 Aug. 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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Statistics for recidivism

Last Updated

26 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Recidivism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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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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