Rahm Emanuel, the embattled Democratic mayor who faces demands to resign over continued citywide gun violence, turned the blame onto criminals and repeat offenders during a Monday press conference.

I think repeat is an adjective in this context, because according to Free dictionary, repeat:

adj. Of, relating to, or being something that repeats or is repeated: a repeat offender; a repeat performance of the play.

Repetitive and repeated can also be adjectives. I'm curious how to distinct these three words, repeat, repetitive and repeated?

For example, repeated attempts to kill him VS repetitive attempts to kill him VS repeat attempts to kill him?

Any thought?

1 Answer 1


I think the phrase repeat offender swam its way into the main stream after being spawned in bureaucratic headwaters. It resembles a database column-name, a label.

Related earlier uses of the adjective suggest a form of headlinese. You might have seen this abbreviated annotation on a concert poster: REPEAT PERFORMANCE.

repeated is formed from the past participle of the verb repeat.

repetitive has the adjectival suffix -ive.

repeat I understand to be a noun that is used adjectivally. Compare:

We need to do a repeat of yesterday's battery of tests.

The nuanced difference between those words, IMO:

repeated applies to that which is intentionally done again.

repetitive applies to that which occurs again (and again).

repeat refers to a category of actions or actors rather than applying directly to them. Compare emergency measures.

He developed a repetitive-motion wrist injury.

Listen carefully. These instructions will not be repeated.

He was not reformed by prison but became a repeat offender.

With respect to your sample phrases:

Repeated attempts to kill him VS repetitive attempts to kill him VS repeat attempts to kill him?

the idiomatic choice is repeated attempts.

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