I'm trying to find a word or phrase that best describes the process of an object or entity that enters a continuous cycle until it grows large enough or matures to a point of self-sustainability.

Example: A person who enters rehab for help on some problem and stays within the system until the person has matured or grown to some point (after undergoing repeated examinations) that the subject can once again enter society.

Example: A college paper that starts as a rough draft, submitted for review by a peer, and returned with improvements. This cycle is ongoing until the paper is (mostly) cleared of flaws by peers and the author, finally graduating to a final draft ready for submission (the ejection from the cycle)

6 Answers 6


Sounds like it would be called an iterative process. Or maybe a recursive one.

  • 10
    +1 to iterative, -1 to recursive. This isn't really a recursive process. Recursive would be painting a painting of a painting of a painting. Iterative is painting a picture, then tweaking it, then tweaking it some more. Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 5:12
  • Thank you, that exactly matches what meaning I was looking for. I had considered a series of iterations, but I didn't realize that the singular could also explain the process.
    – Workman
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 15:57
  • @JustinMorgan, coming from a computer science background, recursive resonates with me: the end result is the recursive application of a function over its initial input. It's the action that is recursive, not the object.
    – sleblanc
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 5:15
  • @sleblanc The computer science meaning of 'recursive' is exactly why it's a bad use of the term. If the action were recursive, it would repeatedly dive into itself in a new context. A good example of a recursive process is a call tree: you want to notify everyone, and each person who is called then calls 5 other people. The same action is applied in a new context. But that's not the question here... the question is one of repeating a process on a single-but-changing context, which is iteration. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 20:20

Because you say "cycle" and "grows larger...matures", I'll say, "maturation" - the process of developing

I would also go with Fortunate1 and say "evolution"


Evolving, at least as it involves a self-contained creative endeavour.


Not sure if you mean the object or the process, but candidate would be a viable candidate to represent the object.

  • Sorry, I wasn't really clear. I'm referring to the process of creating the final iteration of the object.
    – Workman
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 3:47

Some possibilities: Project, work-in-progress, undertaking, labor, endeavor, venture.


The word matriculate was redefined as a sports term around 1960 and is now in general use as a process.

  • In general use? Even though I watch sports pretty regularly, I have only heard it used that way once. I don't think it is attached to that meaning in any other context.
    – mmyers
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 17:58

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