re·​cy·​cle | \ (ˌ)rē-ˈsī-kəl How to pronounce recycle (audio) \
recycled; recycling; recycles

Definition of recycle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to pass again through a series of changes or treatments: such as
a : to process (something, such as liquid body waste, glass, or cans) in order to regain material for human use
c : to reuse or make (a substance) available for reuse for biological activities through natural processes of biochemical degradation or modification green plants recycling the residue of forest fires recycle ADP back to ATP
2 : to adapt to a new use : alter
3 : to bring back : reuse recycles a number of good anecdotes— Larry McMurtry
4 : to make ready for reuse a plan to recycle vacant tenements
5 : to reuse (money) by investing especially in an area or enterprise that will allow the investment to return as new profits recycle petrodollars

intransitive verb

1 : to return to an earlier point in a countdown
2 : to return to an original condition so that operation can begin again used of an electronic device
3 : to process materials or substances (such as liquid body waste, glass, or cans) in order to regain material for human use As a rule, Welch does not recycle. Its roadsides are littered with paper bags from the town's half-dozen fast-food outlets.



Definition of recycle (Entry 2 of 2)

: the process of recycling

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from recycle


recyclability \ ri-​ˌsī-​k(ə-​)lə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce recyclability (audio) \ noun
recyclable \ ri-​ˈsī-​k(ə-​)lə-​bəl How to pronounce recyclable (audio) \ adjective or noun
recycler \ ri-​ˈsī-​k(ə-​)lər How to pronounce recycler (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for recycle

Synonyms: Verb

reclaim, recover

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of recycle in a Sentence


They're studying various ways to recycle garbage into fuel. The doormat is made from recycled tires. Town residents are required to recycle cans and bottles. We make efforts to recycle. The author recycles a familiar story in her latest novel.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Kate is known for keeping her wardrobe affordable and recycling her favorite pieces — sometimes years apart! Stephanie Petit,, "Kate Middleton Wore $6 Earrings (on Sale for Under $2) — and It Almost Went Unnoticed!," 11 Sep. 2019 Technologies that recycle practically everything—that make water, air and food as renewable and self-sustaining as possible—are essential for current and future human spaceflight. Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, "Can Spaceflight Save the Planet?," 6 Sep. 2019 Inside, climatic conditions are carefully controlled with hydroponic systems supplying all the nutrients a plant needs to grow and recycling all but 5% of their water—which is incorporated in the crop itself. The Economist, "The foody benefits of farming vertically," 29 Aug. 2019 Wiley Sanders is a sister company of the Sanders Lead Company, which recycles car batteries in Troy and KW Plastics, which describes itself as the largest plastics recycler in the world, also based in Troy. Dennis Pillion |, al, "Alabama trucking company to pay $3 million over lead leaks in California," 29 Aug. 2019 Studies show that the Amazon functions as a giant air conditioner and humidifier for South America, producing and recycling much of the water vapor that flows into the lower parts of the continent. Herton Escobar, Science | AAAS, "There's no doubt that Brazil's fires are caused by deforestation, scientists say," 26 Aug. 2019 Because only nine percent of plastic is recycled, most plastic waste ends up in landfills or incinerators. Krista Kafer, The Denver Post, "Kafer: Single-use plastic is a problem but a bag ban is not the answer, not yet," 22 Aug. 2019 Nationwide, Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic every year, only 8% of which gets recycled. CBS News, "San Francisco International Airport rolls out ban on plastic water bottles," 20 Aug. 2019 Well, police used a waste department truck to collect the sets, which Henrico County will recycle. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "All Hail TV Head, Who Drops Old TVs on Unsuspecting Victims' Doorsteps," 15 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Same thing with the G-7 summit, with Macron giving everybody these watches made of recycle fishing nets and powered by solar energy. Nr Staff, National Review, "Episode 162: Gaffe-Prone, but Going Strong," 30 Aug. 2019 Baker, who is in Dillingham for three weeks taking a class at the University of Washington salmon research camp, also has met with the local Curyung Tribe which has managed a net recycle program at the Dillingham Harbor since 2008. Anchorage Daily News, "Derelict vessel law sets up ‘DMV gantlet’ for thousands of Alaska mariners," 27 June 2019 His ability to win the ball and recycle possession will become an essential part of his country's game for the next few years., "Netherlands vs England: Picking the Best Combined XI Ahead of Thursday's Nations League Semi-Final," 4 June 2019 Vogueworld Kate Middleton Recycled One of Her Most Stunning Dresses for the Portrait Gala in London Even a Duchess knows how to execute a good recycle-and-reuse moment. Vogue, "Kate Middleton Recycled One of Her Most Stunning Dresses for the Portrait Gala in London," 13 Mar. 2019 Most of it gets turned into clothes and carpets since plastic loses some of its structural properties and becomes discolored with each recycle, diminishing the appeal to bottled-water makers. Saabira Chaudhuri, WSJ, "Plastic Water Bottles, Which Enabled a Drinks Boom, Now Threaten a Crisis," 12 Dec. 2018 And why kind-of, sort-of recycle a look at a huge event like a wedding? Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Has Worn Her Alexander McQueen Gown From Eugenie's Wedding Before," 13 Oct. 2018 Take a look through your recycle bin — bottle caps, jar lids and other plastic containers make great dashboard dials, buttons and knobs. Lara Sorokanich, Popular Mechanics, "4 Great Halloween Costumes From the PM Archives," 11 Oct. 2018 Due to the Memorial Day holiday, trash, recycle and bulky collections during the week of May 28 to June 2 will be one day late after the Monday holiday. Courant Community, "Community News For The West Hartford Edition," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'recycle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of recycle


1925, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1926, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about recycle

Dictionary Entries near recycle








Statistics for recycle

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for recycle

The first known use of recycle was in 1925

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for recycle



English Language Learners Definition of recycle

: to make something new from (something that has been used before)
: to send (used newspapers, bottles, cans, etc.) to a place where they are made into something new
: to use (something) again


re·​cy·​cle | \ ˌrē-ˈsī-kəl How to pronounce recycle (audio) \
recycled; recycling

Kids Definition of recycle

: to process (as paper, glass, or cans) in order to regain or reuse materials

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on recycle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with recycle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for recycle

Spanish Central: Translation of recycle

Nglish: Translation of recycle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of recycle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on recycle

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!