In legal talk, specifically regarding criminals, it is standard usage to call someone who has broken the law several times a "repeat offender." However, I don't understand why such a person wouldn't be called a "repeated offender." Indeed, I have found somewources that use "repeated offender," but these sources appeared to be English-language newspapers from non-anglophone countries, so I don't find them to be reliable examples.

So, two questions: why "repeat" and not "repeated offender"?--in what other collocations is "repeat" used adjectivally?


The compound noun repeat offender is recognised by the OED, as the below extract will confirm.

Nonetheless to describe someone as a "repeated offender" would also be idiomatic. But it would have a less-official sense, and be used more loosely, in conjecture, or to make a point.

Repeat offender is, inter alia an official categorisation of prisoners and people charged with crimes.

b. Forming compounds denoting a person who does something (implied by the second element) again or repeatedly, as repeat customer, repeat offender, repeat viewer, repeat visitor, etc.

1906 Pearson's Mag. July 108/2 It is your ‘repeat’ customers that make your business profitable.

1940 Science 16 Aug. 143/2 An immense public, equivalent numerically—not allowing for repeat visitors—to approximately four per cent. of the total population of the entire nation.

1952 F. Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth in Galaxy June 33/2 Survey the book-buyers, the repeat-viewers of O' Shea's TV shows.

1978 Washington Post 8 Aug. c4/5 Many juveniles, he adds, are repeat offenders, ‘recycled’ through the system.

1986 A. Isserman Population Change & Econ. i. 16 Demographers have noted that a large proportion of migrants are repeat migrants or return migrants. 1993 Parents June 65/4 (heading) About 80% of repeat miscarriers suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome.

2003 Philadelphia Inquirer 11 July a14/2 Judges could be ordering repeat offenders to equip their vehicles with ignition switches that work only when a driver proves his or her sobriety by blowing into a tube.

  • There's 'repeat prescription' as well. – Kate Bunting Oct 28 '18 at 15:40

The offender repeats their offences. It is not the offender who is being repeated.

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