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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.

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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.

Examples:

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.

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    You implied this but didn't state this outright, but I would argue that "recurring" is more commonly used.
    – BradC
    Sep 29, 2016 at 14:57
  • Fair point. I will update to include that
    – eques
    Sep 29, 2016 at 15:04

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