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I know that "center" and "centre" are the respective American and British spellings of the word, but is "recenter" spelt "recentre" in the British way, or not? I tried to Google for "recentre", but no dictionary came up with it. Actually, is that even a real word? I'm trying to get the word meaning

to bring back to the middle after being away from it

  • Did you try to find out if recenter (not recentre) was a word? That would at least answer the first part of your question :) – WendiKidd Sep 14 '13 at 3:04
  • @WendiKidd: after looking up other sites, it looks like it doesn't exist. What would be a word or phrase that suits what I'm looking for (Google really isn't helpful for these things)? – Qantas 94 Heavy Sep 14 '13 at 3:12
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    Recenter is definitely a word. Collins lists recentre as its British spelling, for what it's worth. – snailplane Sep 14 '13 at 6:49
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    I suppose it might not be in that many dictionaries because re- is still relatively productive, and it's compositional with center (or centre). – snailplane Sep 14 '13 at 6:55
  • I know the noun "centre" is spelt "centre" in British English, but what about the verb? – Andrew Grimm Sep 14 '13 at 8:41
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According to Google ngram viewer

it does exist; it's used about 1/5 as much as `recenter'.

but the pattern of "center" and "centre" is very different over time.

Odd.... and fuel for thought!

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    Also interesting to look at the American corpus alone which shows that "center" only came to dominate US english a little over a century ago. – Nigel Harper Sep 14 '13 at 16:25
  • Thanks - just looking at one more site obviously wasn't enough! – Qantas 94 Heavy Sep 14 '13 at 23:45
  • @NigelHarper That's because of Noah Webster's spelling reforms. Pre-Webster, we all used centre, and even post-Webster it took some time for center to catch on in the States. – snailplane Sep 15 '13 at 11:45
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If you're British, you can certainly recentre an image (on a display, for example). Americans, obviously, would recenter it. That's in the sense of to place or fix in the centre (again).

There was never a time when anyone on either side of the Atlantic would have spelt centre/center differently for verb/noun senses; the derived re- forms for verbs simply reflect the relevant "standard".

I suppose because I'm more accustomed to the British spelling, the American version puts me in mind of a non-native speaker's attempt to convey more recent. That's a complete no-no today, of course, but it was sometimes used that way a couple of centuries ago.

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