re·​cip·​ro·​cate ri-ˈsi-prə-ˌkāt How to pronounce reciprocate (audio)
reciprocated; reciprocating

transitive verb

: to give and take mutually
: to return in kind or degree
reciprocate a compliment gracefully

intransitive verb

: to make a return for something
we hope to reciprocate for your kindness
: to move forward and backward alternately
a reciprocating valve
reciprocator noun

Did you know?

Reciprocate implies a mutual or equivalent exchange or a paying back of what one has received (as in "We appreciate you hosting us and we will reciprocate you for your kindness"). The word comes from Latin reciprocus, meaning "returning the same way."

Choose the Right Synonym for reciprocate

reciprocate, retaliate, requite, return mean to give back usually in kind or in quantity.

reciprocate implies a mutual or equivalent exchange or a paying back of what one has received.

reciprocated their hospitality by inviting them for a visit

retaliate usually implies a paying back of injury in exact kind, often vengefully.

the enemy retaliated by executing their prisoners

requite implies a paying back according to one's preference and often not equivalently.

requited her love with cold indifference

return implies a paying or giving back.

returned their call
return good for evil

Examples of reciprocate in a Sentence

Individuals who have received a dedication … are expected to reciprocate with a gift, perhaps placing a few folded notes of money into the hat when they give it back. A. L. Kennedy, On Bullfighting, 1999
When he entered the room … Agnes was conscious of a latent feeling which secretly reciprocated Henry's unconcealed pleasure on meeting her again. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel, 1878
Thus expressing himself, the little lawyer gave Mr. Winkle a poke in the chest, which that gentleman reciprocated; after which they both laughed very loudly … Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1837
They appreciated her kindness but were not ready to reciprocate the gesture. reciprocated the favor by driving their neighbor to the airport
Recent Examples on the Web To the frustration of many Republicans, the Chinese government has yet to reciprocate by dispatching any of its top officials for talks in Washington. Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2023 This strategy has led the companies to make concessions, with the union barely having to reciprocate. Marick Masters, Fortune, 8 Oct. 2023 The Big 12, which is headquartered in the Mustangs’ backyard, didn’t reciprocate the interest. Joseph Hoyt, Dallas News, 23 Aug. 2023 But the Chinese government has not sent any of its officials to Washington, prompting some Republicans to call into question the purpose of any official visits from the United States until the Chinese reciprocate. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2023 The Biden administration has reciprocated early, glossing over the Communist Party of Vietnam’s intensifying human rights crackdown. Hannah Beech, New York Times, 9 Sep. 2023 These signs are big on punctuality, managing their time efficiently (thanks to their planetary ruler, Saturn) and respecting other people and their boundaries, so reciprocating that same thoughtfulness will be appreciated. Andrea Wurzburger, Peoplemag, 19 Sep. 2023 The feeling was clearly reciprocated by the days-long train journey taken by his Korean counterpart in his first trip abroad in four years. Min Joo Kim, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 Whether Tracy reciprocated is where their accounts diverge. USA TODAY, 10 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'reciprocate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see reciprocal entry 1

First Known Use

1607, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of reciprocate was in 1607


Dictionary Entries Near reciprocate

Cite this Entry

“Reciprocate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


re·​cip·​ro·​cate ri-ˈsip-rə-ˌkāt How to pronounce reciprocate (audio)
reciprocated; reciprocating
: to give and take mutually : exchange
: to make a return for something
reciprocate a favor

More from Merriam-Webster on reciprocate

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