I’d like to iterate and reiterate. . .

December 4, 2012 by edotgdot

Reiterate is a word that we hear frequently in conversation, but is misused. Or is it? After a quick Google search, I found reiterate defined on Merriam-Webster online as “to state or do over again or repeatedly sometimes with wearying effect.” Fair enough.

If it’s in the dictionary then it’s a safe bet, right? The question here is about usage. Future Perfect Communications says that “reiterate crept into the language through what’s known as hypercorrection: correcting something which is already right.”

The website further explains that because many people are unaware of the meaning iterate, they add the re as a prefix to give the again element. Iterate (alone) means “to say or do again or again and again.”

So you could reiterate some for example, used correctly in a sentence it could be written as:

The teacher iterates and reiterates her grammar lessons so the students absorb the information before the final exam.

Divine Caroline of Life in your Words says: “My high school geometry teacher clued us into this re-redundant word. Iterate means to say or do again, making the “re” before it useless.”

Merriam-Webster online lists reiterate as a synonym to iterate. So perhaps this is another case of proper usage falling to the wayside. Future Perfect Communications stresses that iterate would be to repeat once  and so reiterate is to repeat two or more times.

To be safe and that is if you are hanging around grammarians or literature majors, instead of asking “can you reiterate, please” ask “can you repeat that last statement” instead.



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