Definition of reciprocal in English:



  • 1Given, felt, or done in return.

    ‘she was hoping for some reciprocal comment or gesture’
    • ‘Within these relationships and activities, we find our desires transformed: made deeper and more reciprocal.’
    • ‘Normally, relationships progress by way of a reasonably paced flow of self-disclosure that is reciprocal in nature.’
    • ‘Giving is reciprocal, there is an expectation: what shall be returned?’
    • ‘This led to a reciprocal trip by members of Kendal Choral Society to Voiron, in Southern France, in 2004, an area well known for Chartreuse, the liqueur originally created by the Carthusian Monks.’
    • ‘We want to enjoy a reciprocal co-operation when we need to call on players to face France.’
    • ‘However, in peer relations, social interaction likewise needs to be reciprocal to allow cognitive elaboration.’
    • ‘There were calls among Unionists and Nationalists for the Loyalist groups to follow suit, but Ervine said they did not feel under pressure to make a reciprocal gesture.’
    • ‘It taught me the pleasures of taking people's money but without the reciprocal pleasure of providing them with some enjoyment in return.’
    • ‘As this description points out, Rubin suggests that in a hunter-gatherer tribe, goods are exchanged mostly through sharing and reciprocal altruism.’
    • ‘In an ideal relationship of trust, self-revelation should be reciprocal.’
    • ‘We hope it will go over there and raise their interest and they will do something reciprocal.’
    • ‘Their relationship presents the promise and the possibility of reciprocal exchange and learning.’
    • ‘In the years following Trivers' initial paper many biologists thought that reciprocal altruism was widespread in the animal kingdom.’
    • ‘Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were quick to welcome the remarks as very helpful and signalled their intention to try and get Sinn Fein and the IRA to make some reciprocal gesture of good faith.’
    • ‘A reciprocal visit from the English side is planned for later in the summer.’
    • ‘The close links between Waterford and Newfoundland are well documented and indeed only a few months ago a group from Newfoundland toured the Waterford and South East area with a reciprocal visit planned next year.’
    • ‘He said that, in recent years, co-operation has greatly expanded and diversified, with bilateral trade surging and a noteworthy increase in reciprocal investment.’
    • ‘They are most disappointed as reciprocal support from the menfolk is very sparse indeed.’
    • ‘Undoubtedly some of the relationships found here are reciprocal in nature to a greater or lesser degree.’
    • ‘Britons have resented, sometimes bitterly, that the US administration does not appear interested in reciprocal support for Britain's agenda in international affairs.’
    • ‘In return, Sweden offers a well-founded, well-resourced jazz scene a short hop from Prestwick airport, so the benefits of this year's Jazz Festival encounters are likely to be reciprocal.’
    felt in return, given in return, corresponding
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  • 2(of an agreement or obligation) bearing on or binding each of two parties equally.

    ‘the treaty is a bilateral commitment with reciprocal rights and duties’
    • ‘In other words, States tend to react to the breach of reciprocal obligations by other States.’
    • ‘Agreements on trade, economic, industrial and technical cooperation, on avoiding double taxation, reciprocal protection and promotion of investment were signed in 1994.’
    • ‘It is a reciprocal agreement that allows for an information flow between the two organizations on a range of safety-related issues.’
    • ‘The main banks have reciprocal agreements that allow each other's customers to use cash machines free of charge.’
    • ‘It says too little about responsibilities, even though rights and responsibilities are reciprocal.’
    • ‘However, by corollary, the husband had a reciprocal duty to provide a home for the wife to live in with him, so long as she did not commit a matrimonial offence (such as adultery).’
    • ‘And he hopes that the surprise move to open up UK media franchises to American companies means that the UK government is close to getting a reciprocal agreement from the US.’
    • ‘Does he agree that people who receive a benefit have a reciprocal responsibility to minimise their reliance on the State; if not, why not?’
    • ‘We just need to be sure that those reciprocal agreements provide our personnel with absolute guarantees.’
    • ‘Absent was any long-lasting system of reciprocal obligation fundamental to group cohesion and solidarity.’
    • ‘We know that in 2000 a reciprocal agreement was signed between Australia and New Zealand, and we all support that.’
    • ‘The movement towards free trade spread across Europe in a series of reciprocal trade agreements beginning with the Cobden Chevalier Treaty of 1860 between Britain and France.’
    • ‘Exceptions were made where there were reciprocal agreements with other countries.’
    • ‘The result of the visit was an agreement on reciprocal protection and promotion of investment.’
    • ‘The plan came unstuck when the Department of Health said medical charges could not be waived as Britain did not have a reciprocal agreement with the west African country to treat its residents.’
    • ‘Turkey and the UK have signed a reciprocal agreement allowing citizens of one country to buy property in the other.’
    • ‘Rights and responsibilities are reciprocal, two sides of one coin.’
    • ‘The federal government likes to talk about reciprocal obligation and mutualism.’
    • ‘Australia and New Zealand have a reciprocal agreement on employment, allowing their citizens to work in either country.’
    • ‘This is because many clubs have reciprocal agreements with other clubs: You let me play your course and I'll let you play mine.’
    • ‘But you will only qualify for any pension increases after you retire if you go to live in a country with which we have a reciprocal agreement.’
    mutual, common, shared, joint, corresponding, correlative, give-and-take, exchanged, complementary
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    1. 2.1Grammar (of a pronoun or verb) expressing mutual action or relationship.
      • ‘While our data supports the traditional view of each other as the primary and most common reciprocal construction in English, we find a greater degree of variation in construction types than this traditional view might suggest.’
      • ‘With reciprocal verbs, there are two or more subjects which are acting on each other.’
      • ‘Finally, Russian contains a set of reciprocal pronouns corresponding to English ‘each other’.’
      • ‘Reciprocal verbs are used to express the idea of reciprocity - doing something to each other.’
  • 3(of a course or bearing) differing from a given course or bearing by 180 degrees.

    ‘he took up a reciprocal heading and dropped down to 2,000 ft’
    • ‘Navigators in the open sea normally alter course in this way because they believe there is another vessel dead ahead on a reciprocal course or on their port bow in circumstances which require an alteration to starboard.’
    • ‘I explained to him that I needed to turn around and fly a reciprocal course to re-establish communication with a soldier in distress.’
  • 4Mathematics
    (of a quantity or function) related to another so that their product is unity.

    • ‘The code above finds the reciprocal value of the contents of an integer variable.’
    • ‘The reciprocal function is its own inverse, which might seem to pose a problem in using Newton's method.’
    • ‘We still have their reciprocal tables going up to the reciprocals of numbers up to several billion.’
    • ‘Each trigonometric function has a reciprocal function.’


  • 1Mathematics
    An expression or function so related to another that their product is unity; the quantity obtained by dividing the number one by a given quantity.

    ‘the compressibility is the reciprocal of the bulk modulus’
    • ‘There is also a simple way to find the reciprocal of a continued fraction.’
    • ‘These soon became known as Barlow's Tables and this work gives factors, squares, cubes, square roots, reciprocals and hyperbolic logarithms of all numbers from 1 to 10 000.’
    • ‘For the latter Professor Aitken would ask for members of the class to give him numbers for which he would then write down the reciprocal, the square root, the cube root or other appropriate expression.’
    • ‘Let's work out our problem using the reciprocal of the numerator fraction.’
    • ‘He defined the curvature of a circle as the reciprocal of its radius.’
    • ‘Well, since the denominator becomes 1 using our method, you wind up with just the numerator multiplied by the reciprocal of the denominator.’
  • 2Grammar
    A pronoun or verb expressing mutual action or relationship, e.g. each other, fight.

    • ‘In English, we often omit the ‘each other’, but in Italian, when the action is shared among two or more people and re-directed amongst them, then the reciprocal should be used.’
    • ‘From the point of view of present-day English the most interesting aspect of reciprocals seems to be whether there is a difference between ‘each other’ and ‘one another’.’


Late 16th century: from Latin reciprocus (based on re- back + pro- forward) + -al.