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Recur vs. Reoccur: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 24, 2023
Recur means to happen repeatedly or at regular intervals; reoccur means to happen again but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals.

Key Differences

Recur and reoccur, though used interchangeably by many, carry distinct nuances in their meanings. "Recur" implies a patterned repetition, often at regular intervals. For example, birthdays recur every year. On the other hand, "reoccur" refers to something happening again but without the suggestion of a regular pattern. A rainbow, after a series of rainy days, might reoccur.
In the realm of grammar and lexicon, "recur" derives from the Latin verb "recurrere," which translates to "run back." This etymology hints at the word's sense of cyclicality. On the other hand, "reoccur" combines "re-" (meaning again) with "occur," indicating simply an event taking place once more without necessarily hinting at frequency or pattern.
Both "recur" and "reoccur" are verbs, and their usage often depends on the context and the desired specificity of meaning. When discussing events that have a predictable, cyclical nature, "recur" is more apt. For random or unpredictable repetitions, "reoccur" is more suitable.
Recur and reoccur might seem synonymous, given that both imply a return or repetition of an event. However, the subtlety lies in the inherent emphasis on regularity, pattern, or predictability. "Recur" inherently suggests a known frequency, while "reoccur" remains ambiguous about intervals or patterns.

Comparison Chart


Implies regular or predictable repetition.
Indicates repetition without specified frequency.


Derived from "recurrere" (run back).
Combination of "re-" and "occur".

Usage in Context

Preferred for cyclical, patterned events.
Used for events that repeat without a clear pattern.

Associated Prepositions

Often used with "at" (e.g., recur at intervals).
Usually just followed by an event (e.g., reoccur).

Common Confusions

Sometimes mistaken for "reoccur" in cyclical contexts.
Often used interchangeably with "recur" by some.

Recur and Reoccur Definitions


To return periodically or in a regular pattern.
Monthly meetings recur on the first Monday.


To return to one's attention or memory.
The event might reoccur to her in dreams.


To come back to one's mind.
The same thought recurred to him daily.


To manifest again.
Symptoms can reoccur after years of remission.


To occur again after a period.
Memories of the past often recur.


To be repeated under certain conditions.
The phenomenon can reoccur in a different environment.


To happen or appear again.
The issue may recur in the future.


To take place or happen again.
The accident should not reoccur.


To reappear in a series or sequence.
The theme recurs throughout the book.


To occur after a lapse or interval.
The eclipse will reoccur after a decade.


To happen or occur again or repeatedly
The pain recurred after eating.


To occur again.


To occur again; to recur.


Which word can refer to an event happening again without a clear pattern?


Which word implies regular repetition?


Is "reoccur" more ambiguous about its frequency?

Yes, reoccur doesn't specify regularity or pattern.

Which word might be used to describe an event that happens annually?


What is the root of "recur"?

It derives from the Latin "recurrere," meaning "run back."

Can a rare event reoccur?

Yes, reoccur doesn't imply frequency, just repetition.

Are there any common prepositions associated with "recur"?

Yes, it's often used with "at," like "recur at intervals."

Can recur and reoccur be used interchangeably?

While some people use them interchangeably, they have distinct nuances.

Which verb might be used to describe a situation that happened again without a set timeframe?


Can the term "reoccur" relate to something happening after a long gap?

Yes, it can refer to events happening again after any interval.

Is the primary distinction between the two words the regularity of the event?

Yes, recur implies regularity, while reoccur does not.

Which word would be used for a memory that comes back repeatedly?


Is the usage of "recur" and "reoccur" subjective?

To some extent, but understanding their nuances can lead to more precise usage.

If something happens unexpectedly a few times, which word is apt?


If an event took place once more without a clear pattern, which verb suits?


Is "recur" often related to predictability?

Yes, it's associated with predictable or known frequencies.

If a phenomenon repeats without a regular sequence, which verb is apt?


Do both words relate to events happening again?

Yes, both imply a repetition of events.

What's the difference in etymology between the two?

"Reoccur" combines "re-" with "occur," while "recur" comes from "recurrere."

Which verb is preferred for events like birthdays?

Recur, since birthdays happen regularly.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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