[ verb ri-kawl; noun ri-kawl, ree-kawl for 7, 8, 10, 13, 14; ree-kawl for 11, 12 ]
/ verb rɪˈkɔl; noun rɪˈkɔl, ˈri kɔl for 7, 8, 10, 13, 14; ˈri kɔl for 11, 12 /
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verb (used with object)
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Origin of recall

First recorded in 1575–85; re- + call

synonym study for recall

1. See remember.


re·call·a·ble, adjectiveun·re·call·a·ble, adjectiveun·re·called, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a basic definition of recall?

The verb recall means to remember something. Recall is also used as a verb to mean to request a person to return somewhere. It is used as a noun to refer to an order by a company or manufacturer for a product to be returned for some reason, especially a defect. Recall has several other senses as both a verb and a noun.

The word recall is used as a synonym of remember and recollect. In this sense, to recall is to retrieve old information from your memory.

  • Real-life example: A friend might ask you what you did over the weekend, and you might take a minute to recall all of the fun things you did. When asked to explain what they were doing on a certain date, a defendant in a trial might say that they do not recall.
  • Used in a sentence: I am trying to recall the name of an actor, but I can’t even remember the name of the movie that they’re in!

Recall also means to tell a person to return from somewhere. This sense is often used in the context of a person of authority commanding those under them to return to headquarters or their base.

  • Real-life example: You are likely to hear this use of recall in reference to politics or the military. A country may decide to recall its ambassador from a country it is having a disagreement with, for example. Similarly, a country may recall troops from the place they had been dispatched to. A recall election is one in which voters decide whether to recall an elected official from office.
  • Used in a sentence: After the negotiations fell through, the country decided to recall its diplomat. 

The word recall is used as a noun to mean a manufacturer requesting that products be returned to them because they are defective, unsafe, or for some other reason. In this context, recall can also be used as a verb meaning to issue such a recall.

  • Real-life example: Recalls are common practice, especially by car manufacturers when a part is found to be defective. The car company may send you a letter in the mail to tell you your brakes have a chance of failing. Often, the manufacturer will pay to have the defective part replaced.
  • Used in a sentence: The toy company issued a recall for the toy cars because they were found to be a choking hazard.

Where does recall come from?

The first records of the word recall come from the 1500s. It is a combination of the word call, meaning “to summon,” and the prefix re-, meaning “again.” In several of its senses, recall refers to summoning something. A person who is recalling a memory is summoning it to the front of their mind, perhaps by picturing what it was like when it happened.

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What are some other forms related to recall?

  • recallable (adjective)
  • unrecallable (adjective)
  • unrecalled (adjective)

What are some synonyms for recall?

What are some words that share a root or word element with recall

What are some words that often get used in discussing recall?

How is recall used in real life?

Recall is commonly used as a synonym of remember. It also commonly means to withdraw or summon someone or something back.



Try using recall!

Is recall used correctly in the following sentence?

My memory isn’t the best and I often have trouble recalling things I did just yesterday.

How to use recall in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for recall

/ (rɪˈkɔːl) /

verb (tr)

Derived forms of recall

recallable, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with recall


see beyond recall.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.