Is there a common noun form of the adjective 'repetitive' that doesn't have a pejorative connotation and that denotes a state rather than action?

Edit: I am not looking for the word 'repetition', as the suffix '-ion' conveys the meaning of "action or condition" (dictionary.com), which is not yet the level of abstraction I am thinking of.

I am tempted by the word 'repetitivity' [and its suffix "-ity", which is "used to form abstract nouns expressing state or condition" (dictionary.com)]

But: Although the word 'repetitivity' exists (first detected in 1930 by Ngram Viewer), it doesn't seem to be common within any discourse.
None of the dictionaries I consulted (Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, etc.) knows this word. But isn't it instantly intelligible?

Grammarist knows the word "repetitiveness" but quite clearly states that the word has mostly a negative connotation (hence misunderstandings are around the corner!):

  • "Repetitiveness is the noun form of the adjective repetitive, which is used to describe something or someone as having the attribute of repetition. This term is usually negative, as in something repeats without need or becomes very tiresome in its repetition." [my italics]

Surprisingly, the Urban Dictionary knows the word "repetitivity" (the one I wanted to use) - but it assigns a negative connotation to this word too!

Example sentence: "English teachers often find it hard to convey to young learners such abstract ideas as generality and repetitivity, when they have to explain the main uses of the Simple Present tense."

Important: What I am looking for is a word for a concept more abstract than the concept of "repetition".

exclusive - exclusion - exclusivity

  • It would be helpful if you gave us a context in which you wish to deploy the word, and it may be worth adding the 'single-word-request tag (and reading the info on that tag). – Spagirl Jul 18 '17 at 10:42
  • @Spagirl Thank you for the info. I added a sentence. Obviously, this sentence could be reformulated in many different and easier ways! It's just an example sentence I put in order to meet the criteria of single word requests. – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 10:55
  • 'More general' in what way? The excusivity example is too sparse to act as an explanation. – Lawrence Jul 18 '17 at 11:16
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    You can't just use the word repeat? A repeat is neutral. Many times, a repeat shows emphasis. – Yosef Baskin Jul 18 '17 at 16:14
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    @AshwinSchumann Look at an original Roget's (online). The section headings are great labels for abstract concepts above the usual abstract words. (which is to say a philosopher may well have a good word for you but a better search strategy is to look through the words and see if any match and go from link to link finding closer and closer words). – Mitch Jul 18 '17 at 21:00

I think you might be looking for something like recursiveness or recursivity, both of which are nouns meaning (Oxford Dictionaries):1

The property of being recursive

which is an adjective that is a close synonym of repetitive. Again from Oxford Dictionaries:

Characterized by recurrence or repetition.

Similar to your own "progression" of words, we thus have

recur (verb) —> recurrence (fairly concrete noun) —> recursive (adjective) —> recursiveness/recursivity (more abstract noun)

I personally prefer recursiveness as slightly easier to say. (Your own suggestion of repetitivity I find particularly difficult to say, though it would otherwise work.)

1 Yes, the basic definition of both words is word-for-word identical, omitting only the cross-reference to one another.

  • 'Recursiveness' is great! – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 20:40
  • In computing science, recursive and iterative have very different meanings. Does recursive get a lot of use outside this technical setting? Just curious. – Global Charm Jul 18 '17 at 21:05
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    @GlobalCharm I don't think it gets that much use, which makes it something of a blank slate for more specialist use. Philosophy/mathematics and linguistics also have specialized uses of the word, which each have slight variations from one another or the CS use; I think that works partially because the term doesn't have a really strongly defined lay meaning. I personally tend to use it when talking to about the research process, along with analogies like fractals and "rinse and repeat". – 1006a Jul 18 '17 at 21:47

What about plain and simply


This is used quite commonly e.g. in computer programming routines where certain tasks have to be done repeatedly [!] but without this being negative; quite to the opposite, it is crucial that these steps are done a number of times running.

But of course the word is not a new one from the age of computers. Here is what Etymonline has for it:

Iterative: "involving repetition," late 15c., from French iteratif (c. 1400), from Late Latin iterativus, from iterat-, past participle stem of Latin iterare "do again, repeat" (see iteration). As a noun, "an iterative word," by 1839. Related: Iteratively.

  • "Iterative" is an adjective, but I am looking for a noun. And that word should be more general than its nominal form "iteration". (It's basically the same question again.) I added a comparison in my last edit: exclusive - exclusion - exclusivity – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 11:08
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    Oh, sorry, yes, you said you need a noun. Iterativity would not help, either? – Christian Geiselmann Jul 18 '17 at 11:24
  • I guess it's as intelligible as my "repetitivity" and yet not to be found in a dictionary, despite not being really discourse-specific, but simply a bit more abstract. I guess so far "iterativity" comes closest to what I was looking for. – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 11:42
  • Upon comparing 'repeat' (n.) and 'iterativity', I prefer the word by @Christian Geiselmann. It comes closest to what I meant. But what about 'repetitivity'? – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 19:09
  • If you don't mind, can you include "iterativity" into your answer so I can upvote the answer? – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 20:14

If it doesn't have to be "a cognate of the adjective repetitive," and if it also has no "pejorative connotation," then the noun you are looking for is, I think, routine:

1 A sequence of actions regularly followed.

For non-human actions, you can use either

sequence (as in "a sequence of sounds")

2 A set of related events, movements, or items that follow each other in a particular order.

or you can use, even in very abstract contexts, the term string:

2.1 A sequence of similar items or events.

As to the noun corresponding to the adjective iterative, this is


1 The repetition of a process or utterance.

  • I am looking for a word that equally applies to non-human actions or events. If I understand the word "routine" well, it stands for a sequence of actions performed by a human. But what about a repetitive sound, a repetitive movement. Which word applies to that kind of concept of the repetitive? – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 11:04
  • Thanks for editing. I am still looking for a word that would allow to speak about the "-----ity" of your 'sequence of sounds' . Something like 'sequentiality', although so far I prefer iterativity. But still no one has told me their opinion on 'repetitivity'.? Have you ever come across that word? – Ashwin Schumann Jul 18 '17 at 11:46

How about persistence or perseverance? These are more general concepts than repetition, in the sense that a persistent individual can continue in their in their progress towards a goal either by repetition or variation, i.e. trying something new. For example:

He wanted to see her badly. He knocked, and knocked again. He pushed on the doorbell multiple times but to no avail. His shame made him persistent. He would persevere until his words of apology and contrition could be honestly placed before her. And the night was dark and stormy, which just made it all the worse... (The raindrops struck persistently at his cloak...)


One can say that something happens with regularity, with uniformity, like clockwork, in rhythm, or in order.


Perhaps some form of cycle, or cyclical behavior.

From MW:


2 a : a course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point

protected by tchrist Jul 19 '17 at 13:21

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