Recur vs. reoccur

Something that recurs happens repeatedly, perhaps at regular intervals. Something that reoccurs happens again, but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals. For example, the sunrise recurs, and an unpredictable event that happens to occur more than once—such as an earthquake or a financial crisis—reoccurs.




Fresh off Golden Globe and SAG Award victories, the HBO drama will add this British actor in a recurring role on season two. [TV Fanatic]

Seizures might recur as many as a hundred times a day. [Kilgore News Herald]


In our view, Haiti’s traumatic crises will continue to reoccur unless resulting social, economic, and geographic imbalances are fundamentally changed. [Foreign Policy]

He added that Britain has not completed its regulatory overhaul—designed to ensure such a crisis could not reoccur … [Telegraph]


Check Your Text


  1. So both “recur” and “reoccur” are legitimate words?  I always thought that “reoccur” was not a word.

    • reardensteel says:

      Yeah, same here.
      I can’t stand it when people say “reoccuring”.

      • I have the oppposite, I thought recur wasn’t a word. I’de heard of reccuring but not recur on it’s own

      • Could you say “Earthquakes are reoccurring events” or, more fitting, “Earthquakes in Chile have a high risk of reoccurring within 100 years of a previous one.”

        Before today, I would have used “recurring”, however I’ve learned something today and I suspect that “reoccurring” is appropriate.

        On this subject, I’ve just spotted something. Whilst I was spell-checking “reoccuring” and correcting to “reoccurring”, the spelling-suggester suggested “reoccurring” but also “non-recurring”

        Based on the above definition, it looks like we could say:

        “Earthquakes are non-recurring (in that they don’t necessarily happen repeatedly or at regular intervals) but are instead reoccurring.”


        • reardensteel says:

          Yes, I agree.

          What I don’t like is the use of reoccurring in place of recurring.
          A lot of people do that.

        • I wouldn’t expect that an earthquake is a recurring or reoccurring event. Each is its own event. I would expect to use either word when the first event is the same as the subsequent. Earthquakes are never the same event.

        • Isn’t reoccuring more of a verb and recurring is a adjective? Most of the time people mean recurring instead of reoccuring. Hence “Earthquakes are recurring events” and “Earthquakes in Chile have a high risk of reoccuring…” etc

          • Yes! I don’t think that “reoccurring” can ‘properly’ be used as an adjectival participle. That would rather imply that it is a substantive part of its nature, thereby making it “recurring.”

      • stellabystarlite says:

        Did you even read the article? Reoccur has a different meaning from recur. Reoccur = a discrete instance of an event happening again. Recur = something happening over and over.

      • ChargerGrant says:

        You sound like you’re easily frustrated.

    • Grammarist says:

      They’re both perfectly good words with distinct meanings. See above.

    • JohnOfStony says:

      Same here. I thought ‘reoccur’ was simply a clumsy way of saying ‘recur’

    • Gerri Ford says:

      I was taught that a thing only “occurs” once and after the first time, it “recurs.”

    • ChargerGrant says:

      Nope. It’s a word. I recently corrected someone who corrected me for using the word by providing multiple examples as proof. They were not pleased.

  2. mitzie harris says:


    Thanks for the clarity, you made my day…..

  3. The real answer says:

    you can’t double prefix a word stem. re is a latin prefix and so is ob. the b in ob assimilates with the c in cur (the word stem). Hence recur and occur. reoccur does not work.

    • the real answer says:

      It’s like the word ain’t. just because people say it doesn’t make it right.

      • Matt Steadman says:

        Just because grammarists claim that something isn’t a word, doesn’t mean it ain’t.

      • Chris Johnston says:

        “Ain’t” began life as a legitimate contraction of “am not”, so it was “I ain’t, you aren’t, he isn’t.” Its problems began when people started saying “it ain’t”, which, of course people would point out was incorrect, because you wouldn’t say “it am not”, would you? It then became a confused issue as people were told not to say “ain’t” so often that it became assumed that it was always wrong to do so. A sad end to what should have been a useful contraction.

    • dyingofpoetry says:

      Unfortunately, several dictionaries disagree with you, as “reoccurring” is listed in them. So are “disinclined,” ” and “indiscriminate” (among others), which have two Latin prefixes.

    • Chris Johnston says:

      Funny, my Latin dictionary is replete with genuine Latin words with multiple prefixes. I’ve never heard of such a rule. Indefensus, Indifferens, inexcusabilis, recomminiscor, for starters. Also, English is even more filled with examples. Reinvent, inconceivable, reconnect… would you say that those aren’t words?

    • ChargerGrant says:

      Your first posit is incorrect, so your argument falls apart from there.

  4. Reoccur is NOT a word. User ‘The real answer’ explained it perfectly by writing, “you can’t double prefix a word stem. re is a latin prefix and so is ob. the b in ob assimilates with the c in cur (the word stem). Hence recur and occur. reoccur does not work.”

    However, ‘The real answer’ should begin a sentence with a capital letter and capitalize the proper noun Latin.

    • ‘The real answer’ is correct as-written because oc is a variant of OB by assimilation before c. Start reading?

      • stellabystarlite says:

        No hyphen in “as written,” dummy.

        • It’s sort of like when you’re in the first grade and someone asks, “What happens if you take a small number and subtract a big number from it?” To which the teacher replies, “Oh, don’t worry about that.” You see, if you stuck around, they’d eventually reveal the idea of negative numbers. Or, in this case, the part where the state of being correct is cognitively preceded by its modifier; ergo, hyphenated. Next.

          • stellabystarlite says:

            “As written” is DEFINITELY not to be hyphenated there. Completely extraneous and incorrect. Such a proud moron you are. If you phrased it as “the as-written statement is correct” then it would work. Otherwise, it’s correct as written.

  5. so are dreams recurring or reoccurring? They happen both repeatedly and it is unpredictably whether they would occur again.

  6. Rick Cambere says:

    “Irregardless” they are both words…:)

  7. Lynne Graham says:

    Hmm, according to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary reoccur means “occur again or habitually,” which sounds like your definition of recur.

  8. I believe that “occur” is something that happened, and “recur” is when that thing happens again. But I’m British so you may have different rules. Although your dictionary says, “Something either occurred or recurred. As in: re·cur; verb: recur; 3rd
    person present: recurs; past tense: recurred; past participle: recurred;
    gerund or present participle: recurring- occur again, periodically, or
    “when the symptoms recurred, the doctor diagnosed something different”

  9. Johnny B. Goode says:

    I’m putting this one away in my grammar arsenal.

  10. 4inhanddrvr says:

    Isn’t “continue to reoccur” the same as recur?

  11. What a load of codswallop! Allowing mispronounced words such as ‘reoccur’ to be legitimized just because enough idiots mispronounce it, is as ridiculous as letting the monkeys run the zoo, and makes just about as much sense! So it looks like we’ll soon have to put up with ‘irregardless’ for regardless, and ‘loose’ for lose… and on and on… how moronic!

Speak Your Mind

About Grammarist
Contact | Privacy policy | Home
© Copyright 2009-2014 Grammarist
Ad will be closed in 5 sec.

Sign up for our mailing list

Sign up for our mailing list