Author Topic: Isn’t “reiterate” a redundant form of the verb “iterate”?  (Read 14128 times)

Joe Carillo

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Question sent in by e-mail by Danny Dangcalan (January 10, 2011):

Hi, Sir Joe!

I often read the word “reiterate” in newspapers. Isn’t this redundant? To “iterate” means “to say or do again,” so doesn’t adding “re” to it make it redundant? (I don't know if this has been discussed in The Forum, for I haven’t back-read much.) 


My reply to Danny:

No, I don’t think the word “reiterate” becomes a redundancy by combining the prefix “re-“ with the word “iterate.” They are actually different verbs with a common root word, iterare, but with different denotations.

My digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary defines “reiterate” as follows:

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin reiteratus, past participle of reiterare to repeat, from re- + iterare to iterate
Date: 15th century

 : to state or do over again or repeatedly sometimes with wearying effect

It defines “iterate” as follows:

Etymology: Latin iteratus, past participle of iterare, from iterum again; akin to Latin is he, that, ita thus, Sanskrit itara the other, iti thus
Date: 1533

 : to say or do again or again and again  : REITERATE

From these very similar definitions, it thus looks like “reiterate” is wholly similar to “iterate” in meaning, but the two actually have a different sense in actual usage. The verb “reiterate” commonly denotes the conscious act of people in stating or doing something over again or repeatedly, but “iterate” usually denotes the automatic act of machines like computers and calculators in stating or doing something over again or repeatedly. People “reiterate” questions and answers, but machines “iterate” them.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2011, 07:47:28 AM by Joe Carillo »