Definition of recursive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /rɪˈkəːsɪv/


1Characterized by recurrence or repetition, in particular:
Example sentences
  • The community's crisis of violence is reflected in a recursive narrative pattern, shaped out of repetitions and returns of the repressed memories of white violence in slavery.
  • Every mystery is contained inside another one like a Russian doll but one where each shell is the same size as the last, a recursive puzzle.
  • What I am saying is that it is inherently recursive (it operates on the products of its own operation).
1.1 Mathematics & Linguistics Relating to or involving the repeated application of a rule, definition, or procedure to successive results: this restriction ensures that the grammar is recursive
More example sentences
  • He studied consistency of arithmetic, proving that formal arithmetic with recursive definitions is consistent.
  • She published papers on mathematical logic, recursive function theory, and theoretical computer science.
  • Kleene's research was on the theory of algorithms and recursive functions.
1.2 Computing Relating to or involving a program or routine of which a part requires the application of the whole, so that its explicit interpretation requires in general many successive executions: a recursive subroutine
More example sentences
  • With the latest security holes, the programs are vulnerable only when acting as recursive name servers.
  • An expression could invoke recursive functions or entire subprograms, for example.
  • It also prevents device driver writers from having to handle recursive interrupts, which complicate programming.



Pronunciation: /rɪˈkəːsɪvli/
Example sentences
  • Now he's released a new essay, which is, recursively enough, about the art of the essay itself.
  • Self-regulated learners engage recursively in a cycle of cognitive activities as they work through a given task.
  • Okay, you will now program it iteratively, not recursively.


Late 18th century (in the general sense): from late Latin recurs- 'returned' (from the verb recurrere 'run back') + -ive. Specific uses have arisen in the 20th century.

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.