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See also: recursión and récursion


Sierpinski triangle, a recursive shape


Borrowed from Latin recursiō (the act of running back or again, return), from recurrō (run back; return), from re- (back, again) + currō (run).


  • IPA(key): /ɹɪˈkɜː(ɹ)ʒən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɜː(ɹ)ʒən



Hofstadter's law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's law.

recursion (countable and uncountable, plural recursions)

  1. The act of recurring.
    • 1852, William Hastings Macaulay, chapter XIX, in Kathay: A Cruise in the China Seas[1]:
      The inhabitants predicate the recursion of these storms by numerous other signs, and are prompt to take every precaution to avoid their effects.
  2. (mathematics) The act of defining an object (usually a function) in terms of that object itself.
    n! = n × (n − 1)! (for n > 0) or 1 (for n = 0) defines the factorial function using recursion.
    • 1988, Andrew Radford, Transformational grammar: a first course, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, page 128:
      However, we have still not achieved our goal of devising a finite set of rules which will generate an infinite set of sentence structures. In order to achieve this goal, we need to allow for the fact that natural languages typically have the property that they allow potentially infinite recursion of particular structures.
  3. (programming) The invocation of a procedure from within itself.
    This function uses recursion to compute factorials.
    • 2011, Michael T. Goodrich, Roberto Tamassia, David M. Mount, Data Structures and Algorithms in C++, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 144:
      When an algorithm makes two recursive calls, we say that it uses binary recursion.

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