late 14c., "refreshment or curing of a person, refreshment by eating," from Old French recreacion (13c.), from Latin recreationem (nominative recreatio) "recovery from illness," noun of action from past participle stem of recreare "to refresh, restore, make anew, revive, invigorate," from re- "again" (see re-) + creare (see create). Meaning "refresh oneself by some amusement" is first recorded c.1400.
A verb recreate "to refresh by physical influence after exertion" is attested from early 15c. and was used by Lyly, Pope, Steele, and Harriet Martineau, but it did not take, probably to avoid confusion with recreate.