re·​cip·​ro·​cate | \ ri-ˈsi-prə-ˌkāt \
reciprocated; reciprocating

Definition of reciprocate

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

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

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Other Words from reciprocate

reciprocator \ ri-​ˈsi-​prə-​ˌkā-​tər \ noun

Synonyms for reciprocate


recompense, repay, requite

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web

In those talks, the North offered to take incremental steps toward giving up its nuclear program, beginning with a freeze, and demanded that the United States reciprocate with incentives like fuel oil shipments. Choe Sang-hun, New York Times, "North and South Korea Set a Date for Summit Meeting at Border," 29 Mar. 2018 Kim has reportedly said that his efforts must be reciprocated by corresponding U.S. measures such as a joint declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. Hyung-jin Kim, The Seattle Times, "SKorea’s Moon calls for ‘bold decisions’ ahead of Kim summit," 11 Sep. 2018 Fans remember Iaconetti, 30, being crushed on the second season of Paradise in 2015 when Haibon, 29, didn’t reciprocate her instant feelings of attraction. Stephanie Petit,, "Bachelor in Paradise's Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon Are Engaged," 18 June 2018 Others wondered, will Trump reciprocate with an equally large letter? Lindsay Benson, CNN, "Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Trump. It's huge," 1 June 2018 The North has touted the closure as one of its major concessions that should be reciprocated by steps by the U.S. Pyongyang has demanded a U.S. agreement to sign an end-of-war declaration, nominally ending the Korean War. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "South Korea Says Pyongyang Willing to Open Up Nuclear-Weapons Test Site," 20 Sep. 2018 Pyongyang urged Washington to reciprocate its goodwill gestures, which include suspending missile and nuclear tests and returning the remains of Americans who fought in the Korean War. Youkyung Lee, Fox News, "Rival Koreas start talks meant to set up leaders' summit," 12 Aug. 2018 First Lady Michelle Obama put her arm around the queen in 2009, and the queen reciprocated the embrace. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump walked (briefly) in front of the queen, and apparently that’s not allowed," 14 July 2018 The Taliban refused to reciprocate an extension to Ghani’s unilateral cease-fire and has conducted bloody attacks against government forces, drawing harsh criticism against Ghani for his move from his political rivals. Sayed Salahuddin, Washington Post, "Fresh violence kills over 15 in Afghanistan as Islamic scholars debate Taliban war," 10 July 2018

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

1607, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for reciprocate

see reciprocal entry 1

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for reciprocate

The first known use of reciprocate was in 1607

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More Definitions for reciprocate



English Language Learners Definition of reciprocate

: to do (something) for or to someone who has done something similar for or to you

: to have (a feeling) for someone who has the same feeling for you

: to move back and forth again and again

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Comments on reciprocate

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


a complex dispute or argument

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