This is a part of a passage quoted from an article:

After a routine health check up with your local doctor, if he concludes you are physically and mentally sound...

Routine's definition in its adjectival form from OALD that seems to fit the context are:

1 done or happening as a normal part of a particular job, situation or process
routine enquiries/questions/tests
The fault was discovered during a routine check.

2 not unusual or different in any way
He died of a heart attack during a routine operation.

However, I am unsure of which definition is more appropriate to the context. Definition #1 seems confusing; I could understand if it states "done or happening as a normal part", but the latter part "of a particular job, situation or process" doesn't make sense to me in relates to the context, because if you're going to a check up, it's obviously not a "job", "situation" doesn't make sense neither. Maybe "process" refers to the check ups as an ongoing matter that one has to go to through out their lifetime? Otherwise, I feel definition #1 fits the best.

  • 2
    If we have to choose between #1 and #2, I agree that #1 is closer in meaning for a routine health check. However, other dictionaries give much better definitions. For example, Google returned "performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason", and Oxford dictionary defines routine (adj.) as "performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason". Jan 9, 2014 at 18:47
  • This def. makes more sense now, by the way just fyi, Google uses Oxford, so they're basically the same dictionary.
    – Theo
    Jan 9, 2014 at 19:02
  • Ah, yes, you're right! They are exactly the same. I copied them without realizing that. Nice catch! Jan 9, 2014 at 19:04
  • It is generally recommended, in the US at least, that people have an annual or semiannual physical exam; I think that is what is intended: a check performed as a routine part of such a routine exam, as opposed to an exam prompted to diagnose some non-routine malaise. Jan 9, 2014 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


In the context of both medicine and vehicle maintenance, a routine check-up is supposed to be a regularly scheduled event where some basic preventative measures are taken to avoid future problems. They're called routine both because they may be part of a health/medical program (e.g. annual physical exams) and because they're not due to any unusual circumstances (e.g. having a cough) that would make the visit non-routine.

  • 2
    Yes, but (stretching a point) I could make an appointment to see my doctor even if I don't have any specific problem. And when I see him, and he asks "What seems to be the problem?" I could say "Nothing, really. I just wanted a routine health check." He might (or might not) be a bit irritated, and he might (or might not) just give me a quick health-check. I could certainly say I went for a routine check-up, even if I never did such a thing before or since. So it doesn't have to be a regularly scheduled event. Jan 10, 2014 at 0:41
  • ...in short, I think more broadly, "routine" in OP's context is not caused by any specific problem (known or suspected) that needs to be addressed. Which normally means that since something has to "cause" it (or it wouldn't exist to be referenced), the most likely reason is it was scheduled anyway. Jan 10, 2014 at 0:45
  • @FumbleFingers All fair points... I softened the language a little so that it's not so black and white on the "scheduled event" issue. I didn't want to make too many changes, though, since I think you comments explain the nuance better than I could in rewriting my answer.
    – godel9
    Jan 10, 2014 at 1:58
  • Yeah - like I said, I was somewhat "stretching a point". Your text was always substantially correct. Not surprising, since it reflects the etymology. From OED: French routine, rotine acquisition of skills through practice (as opposed to academic study) (1559), regularly followed, often unvarying procedure (1715) < route + -ine suffix. Apparently not directly connected to learning by rote. Jan 10, 2014 at 2:55

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