re·​cur·​sion | \ ri-ˈkər-zhən How to pronounce recursion (audio) \

Definition of recursion

2 : the determination of a succession of elements (such as numbers or functions) by operation on one or more preceding elements according to a rule or formula involving a finite number of steps
3 : a computer programming technique involving the use of a procedure, subroutine, function, or algorithm that calls itself one or more times until a specified condition is met at which time the rest of each repetition is processed from the last one called to the first — compare iteration

Examples of recursion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Whether recursion is universal, for example, is contested. The Economist, "A new book spells out the magic of language," 22 Aug. 2019 Informally, recursion involves having an entity or action that refers to, acts on or is based on a copy or type of itself. Quanta Magazine, "The Bulldogs That Bulldogs Fight," 17 Apr. 2019 Our April Insights puzzle explored the magical concept of recursion, a self-referencing process that can create unending complexity from simple beginnings. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘The Bulldogs That Bulldogs Fight’," 16 May 2019 Build on the recursion one element at a time, looking for a pattern. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘The Bulldogs That Bulldogs Fight’," 16 May 2019 Most important was a set of formulas called the BCFW recursion relations, named for Ruth Britto, Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng and Edward Witten. Quanta Magazine, "A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics," 17 Sep. 2013 Daniel Everett, a linguist, claims that Pirahã, an Amazonian language, lacks recursion, and that its speakers do not talk about the distant past or future at all. The Economist, "What Koko the gorilla could and couldn’t do," 5 July 2018 Since the 2016 election and all that has followed, in my head, the camera keeps pulling back. Veils lifting forever in a nightmarish recursion. Brandy Jensen, The Cut, "I Think About This a Lot: The Last Scene of The Hills," 14 May 2018 Lines of desire and frustration swirl around them in maddening recursion. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The First Great Film Adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull," 24 Apr. 2018

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

1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for recursion

borrowed from Late Latin recursiōn-, recursiō "return," from Latin recurrere "to run back, return" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at recur

Note: The form -curs- for expected *-co(r)st- follows the past participle and verbal noun cursus; seen note at course entry 1.

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Time Traveler for recursion

Time Traveler

The first known use of recursion was in 1790

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Statistics for recursion

Cite this Entry

“Recursion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

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