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What is the difference between the words break, respite and recess in terms of usage ?

Respite means:

A short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant

Recess means:

A period of time when the proceedings of a parliament, committee, court of law, or other official body are temporarily suspended

Break means:

Interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course)

source: Oxford Dictionaries


What is it called, the short period of rest in an indoor business meeting, workshop, seminar, conference or university lecture?

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A business meeting, workshop, seminar, conference or university lecture would usually be a one-off event (not repeating regularly over time), so when there is time between sessions, I would call that a break.
There is also coffee break, an activity which repeats but is not scheduled.

In recurring events, such as legal proceedings or school classes, time between a session/class would be called a recess. This is more formal than break.

As you mentioned, respite needs context to determine when it should be used.

(AmE disclaimer)

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  • can we say "rebel groups has given a respite to the conflict which was taking place through the last one year after deliberations." Because the word conflict suggests an unpleasant thing.
    – Mrt
    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:50
  • With a bit of correction, yes. "Rebel groups have given a respite from the conflict which was taking place through the last year after deliberations."
    – user3169
    Aug 26, 2015 at 20:02

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