[ ri-sip-ruh-keyt ]
/ rɪˈsɪp rəˌkeɪt /
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See synonyms for: reciprocate / reciprocated / reciprocates / reciprocating on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), re·cip·ro·cat·ed, re·cip·ro·cat·ing.

to give, feel, etc., in return.
to give and receive reciprocally; interchange: to reciprocate favors.
to cause to move alternately backward and forward.

verb (used without object), re·cip·ro·cat·ed, re·cip·ro·cat·ing.



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Origin of reciprocate

First recorded in 1605–15; from Latin reciprocātus, past participle of reciprocāre “to move back and forth”; see -ate1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does reciprocate mean?

To reciprocate is to do something in response to an action in a way that corresponds or is somehow equivalent to that action.

This is often positive. For example, when you are shown affection by a loved one, you can reciprocate by showing affection back. When someone does you a favor, you can reciprocate by doing something nice for them. However, reciprocating can also be negative. For example, if someone insults you, you may reciprocate by insulting them back or doing something else to get back at them.

A much more informal way of saying reciprocate is the verb phrase return the favor. 

A noun form of reciprocate is reciprocation, which refers to the act of reciprocating or a specific instance of it, as in This gift is reciprocation for all your support. 

Actions or relationships involving reciprocation can be described as reciprocal. The related word reciprocity often refers to a reciprocal state or relation, or to the mutual exchange of things.

More specifically, reciprocate can mean to give and receive things back and forth, or to interchange things. More generally, it can mean to move or cause to move alternately forward and backward, but this sense of the word is less common.

Example: My neighbors helped me with my garden, so I reciprocated by making them dinner.

Where does reciprocate come from?

The first records of the word reciprocate come from the 1500s. It comes from the Latin verb reciprocāre, meaning “to move back and forth.”

This more literal sense of reciprocate is not all that common, but it is used in terms like reciprocating saw (a type of electric saw that moves back and forth) and reciprocating engine (in which the pistons move back and forth). Most senses of reciprocate deal with a different type of back-and-forth, typically one involving a relationship between two people or two groups. The word is most commonly associated with favors, kind gestures, and displays of emotion that are done in response to similar actions, as in I shared my feelings with her and she reciprocated. Sometimes, though, reciprocating is the same as retaliating, as in It is thought that the country may reciprocate after the missile strike.

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What are some other forms related to reciprocate

  • reciprocation (noun)
  • reciprocal (adjective)
  • reciprocity (noun)
  • reciprocative (adjective)
  • reciprocatory (adjective)
  • reciprocator (noun)
  • nonreciprocating (adjective)
  • unreciprocated (adjective)

What are some synonyms for reciprocate?

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

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

How is reciprocate used in real life?

Reciprocate is a somewhat formal word. The act of reciprocating can be either positive or negative.



Try using reciprocate!

Which of the following actions is NOT a way to reciprocate?

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

British Dictionary definitions for reciprocate

/ (rɪˈsɪprəˌkeɪt) /


to give or feel in return
to move or cause to move backwards and forwards
(intr) to be correspondent or equivalent
reciprocation, nounreciprocative or reciprocatory, adjectivereciprocator, noun
C17: from Latin reciprocāre, from reciprocus reciprocal
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
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