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

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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 Mr Everett claims that recursion is neither necessary nor sufficient for human language. The Economist, "An argument over the evolution of language, with high stakes," 5 Oct. 2017 Cameron had introduced a computer-science term earlier in the hour: recursion. Laura Bradley,, "Halt and Catch Fire’s Stunning Finale Proves It Was Brilliant from the Start," 14 Oct. 2017 So in addition to programming, Primo also provides an introduction to recursion and the fine art of debugging. Joseph Flaherty, WIRED, "Can You Teach Programming With Plywood?," 10 Dec. 2013

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

The first known use of recursion was in 1790

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Comments on recursion

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to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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