Printable Version
Pronunciation: ree-kê-pi-chê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: Yes, it obviously could mean "capitulate again", but let's look at its less obvious meanings: 1. Summarize, repeat the major points. 2. Repeat concisely the basic principles, form, or stages of something. 3. Gather together, unite in one, sum up.

Notes: Today's Good Word has a large extended family including three adjectives: recapitulatory (preferred), recapitulative, and recapitulant (rare). The action noun is recapitulation and the personal noun is recapitulator. A recapitulationist is someone who accepts biological recapitulation theory, that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', that embryonic development passes through ancestral forms.

In Play: Recapitulate usually means "repeat the major points": "Television weekly detective serials often begin by recapitulating the previous episode." This sense of this word is often shortened to just "repeat": "So, to recapitulate, the senator says that he doesn't know what is in the resolution because he hasn't read it."

Word History: This word is based on Latin recapitulatus, the past participle of recapitulare "to state the major points again", comprising re- "again, back + capitulum "main point, heading". Capitulum is the diminutive of caput, capit- "head", source also of German Haupt, Dutch hoofd, Danish hoved, and Old English hæafd "head", today head. Latin inherited its word from PIE kaput- "head" without change. As the sense of the word expanded to "chief, main", its sound also changed. In Old French it became chief, which was borrowed by Middle English. The Modern French word is chef, which English also helped itself to. Italian turned caput into capo, often referring to the head of the Mafia. Portuguese and Spanish made it into cabo.

Dr. Goodword,

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