re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Definition of recidivism

: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior especially : relapse into criminal behavior

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The re- in recidivism is the same re- in relapse and return, and like those words recidivism is about going back: it’s a tendency to relapse, especially into criminal behavior. Recidivism is a 19th century French borrowing that’s ultimately from a Latin word meaning “to relapse into sin or crime.” In borrowing recidivism, English was itself engaging in a kind of recidivism: the same Latin source of recidivism had been nabbed in the 16th century to form the much less common recidivate, meaning “to fall into or exhibit recidivism.”

Examples of recidivism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The goal is for the new jail to help reduce recidivism while helping inmates reintegrate into the community. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 13 July 2022 Some studies have shown that stable jobs are a major factor in reducing recidivism. Michael Goldberg, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 July 2022 Some studies have shown that stable jobs are a major factor in reducing recidivism. Erin Prater, Fortune, 10 July 2022 In 2018, then-President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act as a way to reduce recidivism and ease the federal prison population, which has fallen in recent years but still includes more than 140,000 inmates currently in custody. Erik Ortiz, NBC News, 3 July 2022 The two projects followed data and evidence to devise programs that met these goals: reducing recidivism and diverting the homeless population away from jail and into housing. The Sorenson Impact Center, Forbes, 13 May 2022 Bland said money for prison expansion would be better spent on reducing recidivism and getting people back into being productive citizens in society rather than being consistent criminals. Michael R. Wickline, Arkansas Online, 1 May 2022 Officials say reducing recidivism is a key long-term strategy for addressing Alabama’s troubled prison system. Mike Cason |, al, 9 Feb. 2022 The virtual event, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County and the Randallstown NAACP, also touched upon the candidates’ qualifications for the job, juvenile justice issues, preventing recidivism and other topics. Alison Knezevich, Baltimore Sun, 28 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of recidivism

1884, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for recidivism

borrowed from French récidivisme, from récidiver "to reappear (of a disease, tumor, etc.), do over, commit a second criminal offense" (going back to Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin recidīvāre "to relapse into sin or crime") + -isme -ism — more at recidivate

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The first known use of recidivism was in 1884

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Last Updated

17 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Recidivism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for recidivism


re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsid-ə-ˌviz-əm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Medical Definition of recidivism

: a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior high recidivism rates after cessation of smoking— A. E. Kazdin et al.


re·​cid·​i·​vism | \ ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm How to pronounce recidivism (audio) \

Legal Definition of recidivism

: relapse into criminal behavior

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