If any word is written thrice, how many times is it repeated? Twice or thrice?

For example:

shantih shantih shantih

(from The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot)

  • Thrice, but usually three times.
    – sooeithdk
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 4:46
  • 2
    To repeat is say something again. TSE wrote shantih thrice and repeated it twice.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 4:56

2 Answers 2


I think you can say T.S. Elliot repeated the word thrice; or you can say that he wrote the word once and then repeated it twice more; but you can't say something like "In T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land, the word 'shantih' is repeated twice" without risking 99% of your readers misunderstanding your intent (and the remaining 1% simply not being sure what you meant).

To illustrate this reasoning, consider the following two sentences, both of which sound quite reasonable to me:

Example 1: "Repeat the incantation `abracadabra' three times to cause the portal to open."

Example 2: "After saying `abracadabra' and seeing that the portal didn't open, he remembered the instructions from the wizard manual and repeated the incantation twice more. The portal slowly creaked open."

So yes, as deadrat said in the comments, to repeat is indeed to say something again. But -- logic be damned -- to "repeat something twice" can mean to take the action again twice after already having taken it, or just to take it twice counting the first time as well, depending on additional contextual information. Absent that contextual information, I would go with the latter interpretation (i.e., the specified number counting also the first time the action was taken).

  • In your Example 1, the original is in the instruction, so following that instruction requires 3 utterances for 3 repetitions.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 5:44
  • +1 for your point about what the usage communicates to the casual reader.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 5:45
  • @Lawrence I agree, but that disagrees with deadrat's logic. He/she claimed that the first time isn't a proper "repetition" since at that time you are saying it, but not "saying it again". So I guess a repetition should be defined more precisely as "taking an action, in a context in which that action is taken more than once." But it seems that the dictionary definition may not make that distinction clear.
    – user152004
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 5:47
  • 1
    "Repeat [after me] the incantation abracadabra three times." I've said it once in my instruction, so all three of your abracadabras will be repetitions of mine. TSE, not so much. By the way, don't repeat the "l" in "Eliot."
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 5:58
  • 1
    @deadrat sorry for repeating the "l". I won't even start a discussion about how many times I repeated it...
    – user152004
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 6:09

Thrice means it is repeated three times: example - shantih shantih shantih

Twice means its is repeated two times: example - shantih shantih

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