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See also: Recess



The noun is borrowed from Latin recessus (act of going back, departure, receding, retiring; (figuratively) retreat, withdrawal; (metonymically) distant, secluded, or secret spot, corner, nook, retreat; recessed part, indentation) (also Late Latin recessus (decree or resolution of the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire)), from recēdō (to go back, recede, retire, withdraw; to go away, depart; (by extension) to disappear, vanish; to separate; to stand back, be distant; to yield) (from re- (prefix meaning ‘back, backwards’) + cēdō (to go, move, proceed)) + -tus (suffix forming action nouns from verbs); influenced by Middle French recès, French recès (a break, pause; break between classes in school; school vacation; ebbing of tide; reduction) (also Anglo-Norman recès and Old French recès (hiding place; hollow).[1]

Sense 5 (“decree or resolution of the diet of the Holy Roman Empire, etc.”) is possibly influenced by Italian recesso and refers to a decree or resolution made just before a meeting ends.[1]

The adjective and verb are derived from the noun.[2]



recess (countable and uncountable, plural recesses)

  1. (countable) A depressed, hollow, or indented space; also, a hole or opening.
    Hyponyms: piriform recess, sphenoethmoidal recess
    Put a generous recess behind the handle for finger space.
    • 1651, Jer[emy] Taylor, “[XXVIII Sermons Preached at Golden Grove; Being for the Summer Half-year, [].] Sermon V. The Invalidity of a Late, or Deathbed Repentance.”, in ΕΝΙΑΥΤΟΣ [Eniautos]. A Course of Sermons for All the Sundays of the Year. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Richard Royston [], published 1654, →OCLC, page 52:
      [T]he Sun, the great eye of the vvorld, prying into the receſſes of rocks, and the hollovvneſſe of valleys, receives ſpecies, or viſible forms from theſe objects, but he beholds them onely by that light vvhich proceeds from himſelf: []
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Fourth Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 140, lines 603–604:
      VVithin a Mountain's hollovv VVomb, there lies / A large Receſs, conceal'd from Human Eyes; []
    • 1697, Virgil, “The First Book of the Æneis”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 208, lines 298–299:
      VVithin a long Receſs there lies a Bay, / An Iſland ſhades it from the rovvling Sea, []
    • 1781 (date written), William Cowper, “Truth”, in Poems, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC, page 77:
      His dvvelling a receſs in ſome rude rock, / Book, beads, and maple-diſh his meagre ſtock, []
    • 1797, Ann Radcliffe, chapter VII, in The Italian, or The Confessional of the Black Penitents. A Romance. [], volume I, London: [] T[homas] Cadell Jun. and W[illiam] Davies (successors to Mr. [Thomas] Cadell) [], →OCLC, page 181:
      The glare of the touch enlightened only the rude vvalls of the citadel, ſome points of the cliff belovv, and ſome tall pins that vvaved over them, leaving in doubtful gloom many a receſs of the ruin, and many a tangled thicket, that ſpread among the rocks beyond.
    • 1964 April, G[eoffrey] Freeman Allen, “The BRB Shows Traders the Liner Train Prototypes”, in Modern Railways, volume 19, number 187, Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 265:
      The Liner train wagon is a simple underframe on bogies, with coned location points that engage recesses in the container bases.
    1. (architecture) A small space created by building part of a wall further back from the rest; a niche.
      Synonyms: alcove, indentation
    2. (criminal slang, usually in the plural) The place in a prison where the communal lavatories are located.
  2. (countable) A hidden, innermost, or inaccessible place or part of a place.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter III, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 18:
      The recesses of the forest answered well the purposes of concealment, and Lucy was useful both as an unsuspected messenger, and also for the intelligence she was able to obtain.
    • 1921, Lytton Strachey, “Lord Melbourne”, in Queen Victoria, London: Chatto & Windus, →OCLC, section II, page 55:
      [I]n the recesses of the palace her mysterious figure was at once invisible and omnipresent.
    • 1961 November 10, Joseph Heller, “The Soldier in White”, in Catch-22 [], New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, →OCLC, page 169:
      They gathered soberly in the farthest recess of the ward and gossiped about him in malicious, offended undertones, rebelling against his presence as a ghastly imposition and resenting him malevolently for the nauseating truth of which he was bright reminder.
    1. (archaic) A place of retirement, retreat, or seclusion.
      • 1611, Iohn Speed [i.e., John Speed], “Flavius Domitian”, in The History of Great Britaine under the Conquests of yͤ Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans. [], London: [] William Hall and John Beale, for John Sudbury and George Humble, [], →OCLC, book VI ([The Romans] []), paragraph 8, page 214, column 1:
        [U]s hitherto this Corner and ſecret receſſe hath defended, novv the Vttermoſt point of our Land is laid open: and things the leſſe they haue beene vvithin knovvledge, the greater the glorie is to atchieue them.
      • 1667, John Milton, “Book X”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker []; [a]nd by Robert Boulter []; [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], →OCLC, lines 302–306:
        [T]hy tidings bring, / Departure from this happy place, our ſweet / Receſs, and onely conſolation left / Familiar to our eyes, all places elſe / Inhoſpitable appeer and deſolate, []
      • 1921 September, John Galsworthy, “Encounter”, in To Let, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC, part I, page 15:
        His cousin June—and coming straight to his recess!
    2. (figuratively, usually in the plural) An obscure, remote, or secret situation.
      the difficulties and recesses of science
      • 1605, Francis Bacon, “The Second Booke”, in The Twoo Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the Proficience and Aduancement of Learning, Diuine and Humane, London: [] [Thomas Purfoot and Thomas Creede] for Henrie Tomes, [], →OCLC, folio 94, recto:
        [] Momus [] ſeeing in the frame of mans heart, ſuch Angles and receſſes, founde fault there vvas not a vvindovve to looke into them: []
      • 1649, Jer[emy] Taylor, “Ad. Sect. 4. Considerations of the Epiphany of the B. JESUS by a Star, and the Adoration of JESUS by the Eastern Magi.”, in The Great Exemplar of Sanctity and Holy Life According to the Christian Institution. [], London: [] R. N. for Francis Ash, [], →OCLC, 1st part, paragraph 8, page 52:
        [] GOD not onely ſerving himſelf vvith truth out of the mouthes of impious perſons, but magnifying the receſſes of his Counſell and VViſdome and Predeſtination, vvho uſes the ſame Doctrine to glorifie himſelf and to confound his enemies, []
      • 1688 April 18 (Gregorian calendar); first published 1694, Robert South, “Sacramental Preparation: Set forth in a Sermon on Matthew xxii. 12. Preach’d at Westminster-Abbey, on the 8th of April, 1688. [Julian calendar] being Palm Sunday”, in Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, 6th edition, volume II, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, →OCLC, page 301:
        [P]enitential Sorrovv vvill, and muſt proceed much farther. It muſt force, and make its vvay into the very inmoſt Corners, and Receſſes of the Soul; []
      • 1715, Homer, [Alexander] Pope, transl., “Book I”, in The Iliad of Homer, volume I, London: [] W[illiam] Bowyer, for Bernard Lintott [], →OCLC, page 33, lines 710–711:
        But thou, nor they, ſhall ſearch the Thoughts that roll / Deep in the cloſe Receſſes of my Soul.
      • 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, paragraph, page 42:
        CONVERSATION calls out into Light vvhat has been lodged in all the Receſſes and ſecret Chambers of the Soul: []
      • 1814, Dante Alighieri, “Canto I”, in H[enry] F[rancis] Cary, transl., The Vision; or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri. [], volume I (Hell), London: [] [J. Barfield] for Taylor and Hessey, [], →OCLC, page 1, lines 18–20:
        Then was a little respite to the fear, / That in my heart's recesses deep had lain, / All of that night, so pitifully pass'd: []
      • 1840 March, John Stuart Mill, “Coleridge”, in Dissertations and Discussions Political, Philosophical, and Historical [], volume I, London: John W[illiam] Parker and Son, [], published 1859, →OCLC, page 408:
        As to the fundamental difference of opinion respecting the sources of knowledge (apart from the corollaries which either party may have drawn from its own principle, or imputed to its opponent's), the question lies far too deep in the recesses of psychology for us to discuss it here.
  3. (countable) A temporary stoppage of an activity; a break, a pause.
    Synonyms: 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 committee, court of law, parliament, or other official body are temporarily suspended.
    2. (Australia, British, Canada, US, education) A time away from studying during the school day for a meal or recreation.
      Synonyms: break, (Britain) playtime
      Students who do not listen in class will not play outside during recess.
  4. (countable, archaic) An act of retiring or withdrawing; a moving back.
    Synonyms: recession, retreat
    the recess of the tides
    • 1536 July 23 (Gregorian calendar), Cuthbert Tunstall, “A Collection of Records, Letters, and Original Papers; With Other Instruments Referr’d to in the Former History. Number 52. A Letter to [Reginald] Pole from the Bishop of Durham, in His Own Hand. An Original.”, in Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England. The Third Part. [], London: [] J. Churchill [], published 1715, →OCLC, page 120:
      And his Receſſe from the Church, ye proffe not othervviſe, than by the Fame and comon Opinion of thoſe Parts; []
    • 1577, William Harrison, “An Historicall Description of the Islande of Britayne, []”, in The Firste Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande [], volume I, London: [] [Henry Bynneman] for Iohn Harrison, →OCLC, folio 29, recto, column 2:
      [M]oſt of the other lakes, becauſe they come from Linnes, and huge pooles, or ſuch lowe bottomes, fedde with ſpringes, as ſeeme to haue no acceſſe, but onelye receſſe of waters, wherof there be many in Scotlande.
    • 1608, Edward Topsell, “Of the Tame or House-spyder”, in The Historie of Serpents. Or, The Second Booke of Liuing Creatures: [], London: [] William Jaggard, →OCLC, page 266:
      This their vvorke [spiders' webs] being finiſhed, [] they hold as it vvere in theyr hands a thred dravvne from the middeſt or Center, by vvhich they haue eaſie acceſſe and receſſe to and fro to their beguiling nets; []
    • 1649 February 19 (Gregorian calendar), attributed to Charles I of England, “Upon the Lifting, and Raising Armies against the King”, in Έἰκὼν Βασιλική [Éikṑn Basilikḗ]. The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Maiestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings: [], [London: [] Roger Daniel for John Williams], →OCLC, page 49:
      My receſſe hath given them confidence that I may be conquered.
    • 1659 December 30 (date written), Robert Boyle, “A Digression Containing Some Doubts Touching Respiration”, in New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air, and Its Effects, (Made, for the Most Part, in a New Pneumatical Engine) [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] H[enry] Hall, printer to the University, for Tho[mas] Robinson, published 1660, →OCLC, page 372:
      [A] great, gray, Houſe Snail (as they call it) vvhich being cloſ'd up in one of our ſmall Receivers, did not onely, not fall dovvn from the ſide of the Glaſs, upon the dravving out of the Air [] but vvas not ſo much depriv'd of progreſſive motion by the receſs of the Air: []
    • 1715, Robert South, “Ill-disposed Affections, both Naturally and Penally the Cause of Darkness and Error in the Judgment. Part II. 2 Thess[alonians] ii. II.”, in Twelve Sermons Preached at Several Times, and upon Several Occasions, volume IV, London: [] G. James, for Jonah Bowyer [], →OCLC, pages 382–383:
      There being no Sort of Reproach vvhich a Man reſents vvith ſo keen, and ſo juſt an Indignation, as the Charge of Folly. [] Foraſmuch as it carries in it an inſulting Negative upon that, vvhich conſtitutes the Perſon ſo charged properly a Man: Every Degree of Ignorance being ſo far a Receſs and Degradation from Rationality, and conſequently from Humanity itſelf.
    • 1722 March, H[enry] F[oe] [pseudonym; Daniel Defoe], A Journal of the Plague Year: [], London: [] E[lizabeth] Nutt []; J. Roberts []; A. Dodd []; and J. Graves [], →OCLC, page 235:
      [T]he principal Receſs of this Infection, vvhich vvas from February to April, vvas after the Froſt vvas broken, and the VVeather mild and vvarm.
    • 1756 (date written), [Edmund Burke], “Sect. XVI. The Cause why Darkness is Terrible.”, in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, London: [] R[obert] and J[ames] Dodsley, [], published 1757, →OCLC, part IV, page 144:
      It may be obſerved, that ſtill as vve recede from the light, nature has ſo contrived it, that the pupil is enlarged by the retiring of the iris, in proportion to our receſs.
  5. (countable, historical) A decree or resolution of the diet of the Holy Roman Empire or the Hanseatic League.
    • 1769, William Robertson, “Book XI”, in The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V. [], volume III, London: [] W. and W. Strahan, for W[illiam] Strahan, T[homas] Cadell, []; and J. Balfour, [], →OCLC, pages 332–333:
      Conformably to this a receſs [the Recess of Augsburg] vvas framed, approved of, and publiſhed vvith the uſual formalities. [] Such are the capital articles in this famous Receſs, vvhich is the baſis of religious peace in Germany, []
    • 1842, [Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux], “The Germanic Empire”, in Political Philosophy. [], London: Society [for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge], []; Chapman and Hall, [], →OCLC, page 484:
      Besides the fundamental laws and the capitulations, the constitution of the Empire was contained in the Recesses or collections of Decrees of the Diet, which was the general legislative body of the whole Federal union; []
      Foonote †: “A decree of the Diet was called a conclusum; the whole decrees made at any Diet, and promulgated in a body upon the close of the Diet, were called a Recess.”
  6. (obsolete)
    1. (countable) An act of retiring or withdrawing from public life, society, etc.; also, an act of living in retirement or seclusion, or a period of such retirement or seclusion.
    2. (uncountable)
      1. Leisure, relaxation.
        • 1645 May 16 (Gregorian calendar), John Evelyn, “[Diary entry for 6 May 1645]”, in William Bray, editor, Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, [], 2nd edition, volume I, London: Henry Colburn, []; and sold by John and Arthur Arch, [], published 1819, →OCLC, page 170:
          It [Rome] is divided into 14 Regions or Wards; has 7 Mountaines, and as may Campi or Vally's; in these are faire Parks or Gardens call'd Villas, being onely places of recesse and pleasure, at some distance from the streetes, yet within the walls.
        • 1659, James Shirley, “Honoria and Mammon: To the Candid Reader”, in William Gifford and Alexander Dyce, editors, The Dramatic Works and Poems of James Shirley, [], volume VI, London: John Murray, [], published 1833, →OCLC, page 3:
          A small part of this subject many years since had dropped from my pen; but looking, at some opportunities, upon the argument, I thought some things more considerable might be deduced; and applying myself further, at times of recess, I felt it grow and multiply under my imagination: []
        • 1709, Mat[thew] Prior, “Cloe Hunting”, in Poems on Several Occasions, London: [] Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC, page 211:
          Fair Thames ſhe haunts, and ev'ry neighb'ring Grove / Sacred to ſoft Receſs, and gentle Love.
        • 1782, William Cowper, “Retirement”, in Poems, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC, page 269:
          His hours of leiſure and receſs employs, / In dravving pictures of forbidden joys, []
      2. The state of being withdrawn.
        Synonyms: privacy, seclusion
        • 1695, C[harles] A[lphonse] du Fresnoy, “Observations on the Art of Painting of Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy”, in John Dryden, transl., De Arte Graphica. The Art of Painting, [], London: [] J[ohn] Heptinstall for W. Rogers, [], →OCLC, page 199:
          Good Verſe, receſs and Solitude requires: / And Eaſe from Cares, and undiſturb'd Deſires.
    3. (figuratively)
      1. (countable) A departure from a norm or position.
        • 1605, Francis Bacon, “The Second Booke”, in The Twoo Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the Proficience and Aduancement of Learning, Diuine and Humane, London: [] [Thomas Purfoot and Thomas Creede] for Henrie Tomes, [], →OCLC, folio 28, recto:
          This, part of METAPHISICKE: I doe not finde laboured and performed, vvhereat I maruaile not, Becauſe I hold it not poſſible to bee inuented by that courſe of inuention vvhich hath beene vſed, in regard that men (vvhich is the Roote of all error) haue made too untimely a departure, and to[o] remote a receſſe from particulars.
        • 1661, Robert Lovell, “Anthropologia, &c. Of Man. &c.”, in ΠΑΝΖΩΟΡΥΚΤΟΛΟΓΙΑ [PANZŌORYKTOLOGIA]. Sive Panzoologicomineralogia. Or A Compleat History of Animals and Minerals, Containing the Summe of All Authors, both Ancient and Modern, Galenicall and Chymicall, [...], Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Hen[ry] Hall, for Jos[eph] Godwin, →OCLC, page 430:
          The external maladies are. 1. Tumours, vvhich are receſſes of the parts of mans body, from the natural ſtate, []
      2. (countable) A time interval during which something ceases; an interruption, a respite.
        • 1622, Francis, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban [i.e. Francis Bacon], The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh, [], London: [] W[illiam] Stansby for Matthew Lownes, and William Barret, →OCLC, pages 176–177:
          But in the end (as Perſons capable of reaſon) on both ſides they made rather a kind of Receſſe, then a Breach of Treaty, and concluded vpon a Truce for ſome moneths follovving.
        • 1706, [Daniel Defoe], “Book X”, in Jure Divino: A Satyr. [], London: [P. Hills?], →OCLC, page 229:
          But ſo the Fates, for Puniſhment ordain'd, / The ſmall Receſs the vveary Land obtain'd; / So little Breath to riſing Freedom gave, / 'Tvvas hard to knovv the Subject from the Slave.
  7. (countable, geology) An overall-concave, reentrant section of a sinuous fold and thrust belt, thrust sheet, or a single thrust fault, caused by one or more of: deformation (folding and faulting) of strata and geologic structures during orogenesis, differences in the angle of critical taper during orogenesis, or differing erosional level of the present geomorphological surface.
    • 2018 April 17, Michele Livani, Davide Scrocca, Paola Arecco, Carlo Doglioni, “Structural and Stratigraphic Control on Salient and Recess Development Along a Thrust Belt Front: The Northern Apennines (Po Plain, Italy)”, in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth[1], volume 123, number 5, →DOI, pages 4360-4387:
      Orogenic arcs are made up by more advanced segments (salients) separated by less advanced zones (recesses) (Miser, 1932). Within salients, the critical taper is lower, the distance among thrust ramps is larger, and there may be more ramps departing from the basal décollement layer with respect to the recess areas.
    Antonym: salient

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



recess (comparative more recess, superlative most recess)

  1. (obsolete, rare) Of a place or time: distant, remote.
    • 1661, Galilæus Galilæus Lyncæus [i.e., Galileo Galilei], “The Systeme of the World: In Four Dialogues. []. The Second Dialogue.”, in Thomas Salusbury, transl., Mathematical Collections and Translations, tome I, 1st part, London: [] William Leybourne, →OCLC, page 90:
      [] I ſhould think it beſt in the ſubſequent diſcourſes to begin to examine vvhether the Earth be eſteemed immoveable, as it hath been till novv believed by moſt men, or elſe moveable, as ſome ancient Philoſophers held, and others of not very receſſe times vvere of opinion; and if it be moveable, to enquire of vvhat kind its motion may be?



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

  1. (transitive)
    1. To position (something) a distance behind another thing; to set back.
      • 1874, Thomas Hardy, “Boldwood in Meditation—A Visit”, in Far from the Madding Crowd. [], volume I, London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], →OCLC, page 199:
        His house stood recessed from the road, and the stables, which are to a farm what a fireplace is to a house, were behind, their lower portions being lost amid bushes of laurel.
      • 1962 January, “Talking of Trains: Track Re-arrangement at Colwich”, in Modern Railways, Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 10:
        It will also enable slower-moving freight trains to be recessed in the new down goods loop to await, if necessary, a suitable margin before proceeding to Stafford or Stoke and so reduce confliction with other main-line trains.
    2. (often architecture)
      1. To make a recess (noun sense 1 and sense 1.1) in (something).
        to recess a wall
      2. (also reflexive) Often preceded by in or into: to inset (something) into a recess or niche.
        That gargoyle recesses into the rest of architecture.
        Recess the screw so it does not stick out.
    3. (figuratively) To conceal, to hide.
      • 1808 (date written), [Maria] Edgeworth, “Manœuvring. Chapter XII.”, in Tales of Fashionable Life, volume III, London: [] [S. Hamilton] for J[oseph] Johnson, [], published 1809, →OCLC, page 292:
        Get near fat Mr. Dutton, and behind the screen of his prodigious elbow, you will be comfortably recessed from curious impertinents.
    4. (chiefly US, government)
      1. To temporarily suspend (a meeting, the proceedings of an official body, etc.).
      2. (informal) To make a recess appointment in respect of (someone).
        • 2013 January 14, Michael Grunwald, “Cliff Dweller”, in Time, volume 181, number 1, New York, N.Y.: Time Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, page 27, column 3:
          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 [Barack] 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."
  2. (intransitive, chiefly US, government)
    1. Of a meeting, the proceedings of an official body, etc.: to adjourn, to take a break.
      Class will recess for 20 minutes.
    2. Of an official body: to suspend proceedings for a period of time.
      This court shall recess for its lunch break now.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. 1.0 1.1 recess, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023; recess, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ recess, v.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023; recess, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]




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