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Mid 16th century borrowing from Latin recessus (retreat, departure; a secret spot, nook, corner), from recēdō (to go back, retire, withdraw) +‎ -tus (action noun suffix).



recess (countable and uncountable, plural recesses)

  1. (archaic) A withdrawing or retiring; a moving back.
    Synonyms: recession, retreat
    the recess of the tides
    • 1649, Charles I of England, Eikon Basilike, page 49:
      My recess hath given them confidence that I may be conquered.
    • 1698, Robert South, Twelve Sermons upon Several Subjects and Occasions:
      every degree of ignorance being so far a recess and degradation from rationality
    1. The state of being withdrawn.
      Synonyms: privacy, seclusion
      • 1695, John Dryden, transl., Observations on the Art of Painting by Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy:
        Good verse recess and solitude requires.
      • 1713, Matthew Hale, The History of the Common Law of England:
        In this recess of the jury, they are to consider their evidence
    2. A place of retirement, retreat, secrecy, or seclusion.
  2. A small space created by building part of a wall further back from the rest.
    Synonyms: indentation, alcove
    1. An inset, hole, hollow space or opening.
      Hyponyms: piriform recess, sphenoethmoidal recess
      Put a generous recess behind the handle for finger space.
      • 1964 April, G. Freeman Allen, “The BRB shows traders the Liner train prototypes”, in Modern Railways, volume 19, number 187, page 265:
        The Liner train wagon is a simple underframe on bogies, with coned location points that engage recesses in the container bases.
    2. (usually in the plural) A remote, secret or abstruse place.
      the difficulties and recesses of science
      • 1741, I[saac] Watts, “Five Methods of Improvement deſcribed and compared, viz. Obſervation, Reading, Inſtruction by Lectures, Converſation, and Study, with their ſeveral Advantages and Defects”, in The Improvement of the Mind: Or, A Supplement to the Art of Logick: [], London: [] James Brackstone, [], OCLC 723474632, page 42:
        CONVERSATION calls out into Light what has been lodged in all the Receſſes and ſecret Chambers of the Soul: []
  3. (countable or uncountable) A break, pause or vacation.
    Synonyms: break, day off, hiatus, moratorium; see also Thesaurus:pause, Thesaurus:vacation
    Spring recess offers a good chance to travel.
    1. (government) A period of time when the proceedings of a parliament, committee, court of law, or other official body are temporarily suspended.
    2. (Canada, US, Australia) A time of play during the school day, usually on a playground.
      Synonyms: (UK) break, playtime
      Students who do not listen in class will not play outside during recess.
  4. A decree of the imperial diet of the old German empire.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Brande & C to this entry?)

Derived terms[edit]



recess (third-person singular simple present recesses, present participle recessing, simple past and past participle recessed)

  1. (transitive) To inset into something, or to recede.
    Wow, look at how that gargoyle recesses into the rest of architecture.
    Recess the screw so it does not stick out.
    1. (transitive) To make a recess in.
      to recess a wall
  2. (Canada, US, intransitive, of formal proceedings) To take or declare a break.
    Class will recess for 20 minutes.
    1. (transitive) To suspend (formal proceedings) temporarily.
    2. (government, intransitive, of an official body) To suspend its proceedings for a period of time.
      This court shall recess for its normal two hour lunch now.
  3. (transitive, informal) To appoint, with a recess appointment.
    • 2013 January 14, Michael Grunwald, “Cliff Dweller”, in Time, volume 181, number 1, ISSN 0040-781X, page 27:
      To the National Rifle Association's delight, the Senate has hobbled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by failing to confirm a director since 2006, but Obama hasn't made a recess appointment. [] "The President's view of his own power is a constrained one," says White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. "Many of his nominees have languished, but he's only recessed the ones that were critical to keep agencies functioning."

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



recess (comparative more recess, superlative most recess)

  1. (obsolete, rare, of time or place) Remote, distant.
    • 1632, Thomas Salusbury, transl., Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems:
      I should think it best in the subsequent discourses to begin to examine whether the Earth be esteemed immoveable, as it hath been till now believed by most men, or else moveable, as some ancient Philosophers held, and others of not very recesse times were of opinion; []





recess c

  1. a decision, an agreement, a return (to previous conditions)
  2. a recess, a niche


Declension of recess 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative recess recessen recesser recesserna
Genitive recess recessens recessers recessernas