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Often times, I use to verb to recover to state that somebody is returning to normal health after having been ill, for instance:

he is recovering from illness

Recently, I've heard somebody using the verb to recuperate in the same context and with the same meaning:

he needs time to recuperate from surgery

Can to recuperate and to recover be used interchangeably?
If not, what is the difference?

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They both come from Mediæval Latin recuperare, and as such both mean getting back something that was lost.

Recuperate is more often used only of recovering from illness or money lost in a venture rather than other potential uses.

Recuperation would be more often used than recovery of the period spent resting under treatment in order get better.

As such, they're pretty much interchangeable as it comes to illness, but in contrast to say "the army recuperated the territory south of the river" would be valid, but strange.

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  • a latere, for those who read news about COVID-19 from Italy, it might be useful to know that in Italian, ricoverare means "to hospitalize one for illness" (think of it as "getting one under cover", i.e. under medical cares), and not "getting back to sane" which is instead guarire. So once you are in bed at the hospital you are "ricoverato", and when your illness is finished you are "guarito". – lurix66 Mar 17 at 9:55
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Apparently, to recuperate and to recover can be used interchangeably. re·cu·per·ate (r-kp-rt, -ky-) v. re·cu·per·at·ed, re·cu·per·at·ing, re·cu·per·ates v.intr. 1. To return to health or strength; recover. 2. To recover from financial loss. v.tr. 1. To restore to health or strength. 2. To regain. From The Free Dictionary by Farlex

However, there are more occurences of the phrase "to recover money" than "to recuperate money". Please, check the following link for the use of "recuperate"

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