How to call an event that keeps appearing?

According to a dictionary, both 'recurrent' and 'recurring' seem fine but there must be some slight difference between them.


Their basic meanings are very similar; in many cases they could be equally valid. There are certain contexts where "recurrent" would be more likely; in particular recurrent "recurrent" would show up in medical or technical applications.


The patient had recurrent chest pain

The mathematics lecture was on recurrent relations

The first example might be said with "recurring" by someone who isn't a medical professional.

So ultimately, "recurring" is far more commonly used and in a wider set of circumstances. "Recurrent" is mostly used in technical fields.

Why do two such similar words exist in English? It's a result of how English vocabulary developed. "Recurrent" is more directly based on a Latin present participle whereas recurring is based on the English verb "recur" which derives from a Latin verb. This pattern occurs frequently in English as a result we end up with similar meaning terms which derive from the same source which are all used in English with varying frequencies and overlap.

  • 1
    You implied this but didn't state this outright, but I would argue that "recurring" is more commonly used. – BradC Sep 29 '16 at 14:57
  • Fair point. I will update to include that – eques Sep 29 '16 at 15:04

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