[ ri-sip-ruh-kuhl ]
/ rɪˈsɪp rə kəl /
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See synonyms for: reciprocal / reciprocals on Thesaurus.com

something that is reciprocal to something else: Faith and fear are reciprocals.
Also called multiplicative inverse. Mathematics. the ratio of unity to a given quantity or expression; that by which the given quantity or expression is multiplied to produce unity: The reciprocal of x is 1/x.
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Origin of reciprocal

First recorded in 1560–70; from Latin reciproc(us) “returning, reciprocal” + -al1

synonym study for reciprocal

1. See mutual.


re·cip·ro·cal·i·ty [ri-sip-ruh-kal-i-tee], /rɪˌsɪp rəˈkæl ɪ ti/, re·cip·ro·cal·ness, nounre·cip·ro·cal·ly, adverbnon·re·cip·ro·cal, adjective, nounun·re·cip·ro·cal, adjective


mutual, reciprocal (see synonym study at mutual)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does reciprocal mean?

Reciprocal is an adjective used to describe things that involve an action done in response to another action in a way that is equivalent to it.

To perform such an action is to reciprocate, and the act of doing so is called reciprocation. For example, when someone does you a favor, you can reciprocate by doing something nice for them.

The word reciprocal is typically used to describe actions, relationships, or other things that involve such actions. Synonyms include mutual, equivalent, corresponding, matching, and complementary.

Reciprocal can also be used as a noun. It can be used in a general way to mean something that is equivalent to something else—similar to the term counterpart.

In mathematics, it’s used as a noun in a more specific way to refer to the number by which another number must be multiplied to get a result of one. For example, the reciprocal of ½ is 2 (which, in the form of a fraction, is 2/1). In math, a reciprocal is also called an inverse.

Relatedly, reciprocal can also be used as an adjective to mean opposite or inversely related (which is just about the opposite of what reciprocal is generally used to mean).

Example: The two museums offer a reciprocal membership, which means it gives you visiting privileges at both.

Where does reciprocal come from?

The first records of the word reciprocal come from the 1500s. It comes from the Latin reciproc(us), meaning “returning” or “alternating.”

Reciprocal actions are often those that return the favor. Reciprocal relationships are based on alternating actions or a mutual exchange of something. In personal relationships, this often involves kind gestures and displays of emotion that are done in response to similar actions. Reciprocal relationships between countries involve reciprocity—a state or relation based on mutual policies or aid. Two countries that engage in reciprocity may extend certain advantages or privileges to each other’s citizens, or may require certain obligations required by the other country.

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What are some other forms related to reciprocal

  • reciprocally (adverb)
  • reciprocality (noun)

What are some synonyms for reciprocal?

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

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

How is reciprocal used in real life?

Reciprocal is a somewhat formal word, but it’s used in all kinds of contexts.



Try using reciprocal!

Which of the following actions would NOT be described as reciprocal?

A. responding to someone’s message
B. giving someone a gift after receiving one from them
C. ignoring someone who has tried to contact you
D. returning a favor

How to use reciprocal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for reciprocal

/ (rɪˈsɪprəkəl) /

something that is reciprocal
Also called: inverse maths a number or quantity that when multiplied by a given number or quantity gives a product of onethe reciprocal of 2 is 0.5

Derived forms of reciprocal

reciprocality, nounreciprocally, adverb

Word Origin for reciprocal

C16: from Latin reciprocus alternating
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

Scientific definitions for reciprocal

[ rĭ-sĭprə-kəl ]

Either of a pair of numbers whose product is 1. For example, the number 3 is the reciprocal of 13.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for reciprocal


The number by which a given number must be multiplied to get a result of one. The reciprocal of one-half, for example, is two.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.