Word Choice – Recur Versus Reoccur

Angela’s question: “Can you please describe when to use ‘reoccur’ and when to use ‘recur.’ Are they interchangeable?”

BizWritingTip response: Aha more controversial words! The dictionary defines “recur” as a verb meaning “to occur again” or “be repeated.” (“Recurrence” is the noun.)


Lightning recurred throughout the night. (It happened often.)
It is a recurring error. (The error is often repeated.)

“Reoccur” does not appear in the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, Webster’s New World Dictionary, The AP Stylebook or The CP Stylebook. (Nor does “reoccurrence.”)

However, “reoccur” does appear in The Free Online Dictionary and in Dictionary.com. It is defined as “to happen, take place, or come about again.”


The idea reoccurred to me.

The difference seems to indicate frequency. If something repeats itself once, it reoccurs. But if it repeats itself often, it recurs.

This is a great distinction. But —for now — I am going to stick with the majority of reference sources and just use “recur.”