re·​cip·​ro·​cal | \ri-ˈsi-prə-kəl \

Definition of reciprocal 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : inversely related : opposite

b : of, constituting, or resulting from paired crosses in which the kind that supplies the male parent of the first cross supplies the female parent of the second cross and vice versa

2 : shared, felt, or shown by both sides

3 : serving to reciprocate : consisting of or functioning as a return in kind the reciprocal devastation of nuclear war

4a : mutually corresponding agreed to extend reciprocal privileges to each other's citizens

b : marked by or based on reciprocity reciprocal trade agreements



Definition of reciprocal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something in a reciprocal relationship to another

2 : either of a pair of numbers (such as ²/₃ and ³/₂ or 9 and ¹/₉) whose product is one broadly : multiplicative inverse

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Other Words from reciprocal


reciprocally \ ri-​ˈsi-​prə-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for reciprocal

Synonyms: Adjective

complementary, correlative, supplemental, supplementary

Antonyms: Adjective

noncomplementary, nonreciprocal

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Did You Know?

In Latin, reciprocus means "returning the same way" or "alternating". So in a reciprocating engine, like the one in your car, the pistons move back and forth, and that motion is transformed into the rotary motion of the crankshaft. A reciprocal is a pair of numbers (such as 5/6 and 6/5) that can be multiplied to produce 1. Reciprocity (with the accent on the third syllable) between two nations means they agree to recognize certain things granted in one country as being valid in the other—for example, your driver's license.

Examples of reciprocal in a Sentence


the two nations agreed to give reciprocal work rights to each other's citizens, thus facilitating the daily border crossings of workers from both countries

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But North Korea still prefers a step-by-step disarmament process with reciprocal concessions and benefits from the United States for each of the North’s denuclearization steps. Washington Post, "Nuclear talks: What US and North Korea want from each other," 7 July 2018 In response, the targeted nations have announced a series of reciprocal tariffs and retaliatory steps of their own, which senators said are causing prices to rise for U.S. manufacturers and other businesses. Erica Werner,, "Republicans and Commerce secretary square off in heated hearing over tariffs," 20 June 2018 Playing this card at the summit before North Korea agreed to any specific reciprocal commitment is a big win for North Korea. Kelsey Davenport, Time, "This Is What Trump Needs to Do to Make North Korea Get Rid of Their Nukes," 13 June 2018 The best solution would be for the two to strike a deal before the tariffs hit and then work out a longer-term agreement built on reciprocal treatment. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "China Trade Brinkmanship," 4 Apr. 2018 And so a reciprocal deal may leave all sides sheltering equally sensitive, but entirely different, sectors. The Economist, "Donald Trump insists on trade reciprocity. But what kind?," 12 July 2018 China’s reciprocal duties will target 545 U.S. products worth about $34 billion, including soybeans, whiskey, orange juice, electric cars, salmon, and cigars. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "On Eve of Trade War, China Warns That Trump’s Tariffs Will Backfire," 5 July 2018 China's reciprocal tariffs make U.S. goods more expensive for Chinese consumers, hurting the many businesses trying their luck in the world's largest market. CBS News, "Trump launches $50 billion in tariffs on China, risking trade war," 15 June 2018 Albright to North A few weeks after Jo’s trip, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a reciprocal visit to Pyongyang to try to arrange a North Korea visit by Clinton. Time, "From Spy Games to Summits, Here Are 10 Historic Moments in U.S.-North Korean Relations," 11 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reciprocal.' 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 reciprocal


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for reciprocal


Latin reciprocus returning the same way, alternating

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Last Updated

28 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for reciprocal

The first known use of reciprocal was in 1570

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More Definitions for reciprocal



English Language Learners Definition of reciprocal

—used to describe a relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc.


re·​cip·​ro·​cal | \ri-ˈsi-prə-kəl \

Kids Definition of reciprocal

: one of a pair of numbers (as 9 and ¹/₉, ²/₃ and ³/₂) whose product is one


re·​cip·​ro·​cal | \ri-ˈsip-rə-kəl \

Medical Definition of reciprocal 

1 : inversely related

2 : of, constituting, or resulting from paired crosses in which the kind that supplies the male parent of the first cross supplies the female parent of the second cross and vice versa

3 : shared, felt, or shown by both sides

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re·​cip·​ro·​cal | \ri-ˈsi-prə-kəl \

Legal Definition of reciprocal 

1a : mutual sense 2

b : bilateral a reciprocal contract

2 : characterized by correspondence or equivalence especially in return or response with another of the same category an … agreement permitting the reciprocal use of each other's landIngham v. Block, 351 S.W.3d 96 (2011) also : marked by such correspondence or equivalence between its own components a reciprocal arrangement

3 : marked by reciprocity between states

Other Words from reciprocal

reciprocally adverb

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Comments on reciprocal

What made you want to look up reciprocal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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