Recur vs. Reoccur

Maybe you’ve heard the word “recur” and used it in a sentence before without thinking. Most likely, you’ve also heard and used the word “reoccur”. But have you ever stopped to look at “recur” and “reoccur” side by side and wondering what is the difference between them?

There are differences between the two words, although they are subtle. Something the is “recurring” – meaning it “recurs” – is something that happens repeatedly. Often, this could be occurring repeatedly at regular intervals. On the other hand, something that is “reoccurring” and therefore “reoccurs” is something that happens again, but it is not necessarily repeated at regular intervals as with “recurring” things. Because of the predictive properties of “recur”, describing an event that is expected to happen again is generally considered “recurring”. Similarly, an event that is not necessarily expected to happen again would be considered “reoccurring”.

Some examples of event that recur versus the ones which reoccur would include an American presidential election. These elections recur every four years, but it is not expected that a recount will reoccur with every election. Similarly, in temperature climates, it is expected that winter will recur annually along with snowfall, colder temperatures, and leaves falling from trees. A record-breaking blizzard, on the other hand, is not an expected reoccurrence. The differences between these words are subtle, but that subtly can be taken advantage of to convey a more meaningful message. Knowing these subtle meaning differences will also provide useful insight while reading other texts.

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