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recessive, adj. and n.

Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: A borrowing from Latin, combined with an English element. Etymons: Latin recess-  , recēdere  , -ive suffix.
Etymology: < classical Latin recess-, past participial stem of recēdere recede v.1   + -ive suffix.
In sense A. 2   after German recessiv (G. J. Mendel, Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden, in Verhandl. der Naturforschung Vereins, Brünn (1865) 4 10).
 A. adj.

 a. Tending to recede or regress; yielding; secluded. Also: (of people) retiring, reserved.

1654   W. Charleton Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana iii. xiv. 328   When the particles of an Humor so insinuate themselves among the closely cohærent particles of a Hard body..they intermix among them, and so..cause the bodie to become yeelding and recessive.
1673   N. Grew Acct. Vegetation of Roots in Idea Phytol. Hist. 122   They will also be more pliable and recessive from the Centre.
1721   J. Clarke Enq. Cause & Orig. Moral Evil 23   That the constituent Particles of it should be indued with particular impulsive or recessive Forces.
1739   B. Morrice Miscellany 26   As wanton Winds can never fix'd remain, In Eddies visit the recessive Lane.
1837   Mag. Pop. Sci. 3 358   The impulse forward imparted to the air by one glass, is nearly as strong as the recessive impulse from the other.
1842   R. W. Hamilton Missions 37   To ask..why the ages were so dark, and the agitations of society so recessive,—is to object but not to reason.
1925   T. Dreiser Amer. Trag. I. i. xiii. 95   She, for her part, felt recessive and thence evasive.
1988   F. Kaplan Dickens iii. 67   The dominant Hogarth complexion was creamy pale..the eyes bright blue, the chin recessive, the hair blond.
2007   New Yorker 19 Mar. 144/1   Kevin Kline is a recessive star,..but not recessive to the point of becoming knotted up in his own acting.

1654—2007(Hide quotations)


 b. Phonetics. Of an accent: falling near or on the first syllable of a word.

1861   J. Hadley Greek Gram. (new ed.) 27   In the majority of words, it recedes as far from the end as the foregoing rules allow; when thus placed, it may be called recessive accent.
1926   H. W. Fowler Dict. Mod. Eng. Usage 168/1   He [sc. the latinist] has still to reckon with the recessive-accent tendency, which has as good a right to a voice in the matter as his erudition.
1973   A. H. Sommerstein Sound Pattern Anc. Greek v. 171   Action nouns..have recessive accent if masculine but final accent if feminine.
2000   R. L. Trask Dict. Hist. & Compar. Ling. 275   Recessive accent is pervasive in the Germanic languages, including modern English.

1861—2000(Hide quotations)


 c. Of a language or linguistic feature: falling into disuse; obsolescent, moribund.

1929   Times 17 Dec. 15/4   Always begin the new line with a consonant, was the ancient Roman rule..and this rule was for a long time kept strictly in England, and is still a traditional, though a recessive, factor.
1935   Univ. Michigan Publ. Lang. & Lit. 13 14   Inasmuch as the -eth plural was a recessive characteristic, we naturally find the -e(n) form as well as the -eth form occurring south of this line.
1962   Amer. Speech 37 172   Possibly coal hod is a recessive form on the Banks.
2004   S. Wilson & R. Mesthrie Handbk. Varieties of Eng. 1010   It is a recessive form, judging from..the fact that it occurs rarely in our data base and only with older speakers.

1929—2004(Hide quotations)


 2. Biol. Of a gene, allele, or hereditary trait: perceptibly expressed only when inherited from both parents, i.e. in homozygotes, being masked in heterozygotes by a dominant allele or trait (also with to the dominant allele or trait). Also: (of an organism) expressing such a trait.

1900   W. Bateson in Jrnl. Royal Hort. Soc. 25 58   In the case of each pair of characters there is thus one which in the first cross prevails to the exclusion of the other. This prevailing character Mendel calls the dominant character, the other being the recessive character.
1921   W. R. Inge Lay Thoughts of Dean x. 246   In the terminology of Mendel, these diseases are recessive in the female sex and dominant in the male.
1930   R. A. Fisher Genetical Theory Nat. Selection iii. 52   The pronounced tendency of the mutant gene to be recessive, to the gene of wild type from which it arises, calls for explanation.
1950   Jrnl. Exper. Zool. 113 123   To obtain a culture isogenic with the recessive parent, employ the usual backcross procedure.
1964   J. M. Argyle Psychol. & Social Probl. vi. 78   A single recessive gene produces the phenomenon of skipping generations and of carriers who do not show the condition themselves; certain kinds of mental deficiency are like this.
1971   D. J. Cove Genetics ii. 14   If a heterozygous strain..resembles the strain homozygous for the A allele,..the a allele is said to be recessive to the A allele.
1994   Dog World Feb. 28/1   Both breeds can carry black-and-tan as a recessive trait with some of these showing it as a ‘red sesame’ appearance (tips of some hairs are black).
2006   Cage & Aviary Birds 1 June 21/3   Colour experimentation proceeded apace and the Danish pied, also known as the recessive pied or harlequin, arrived in 1932.

1900—2006(Hide quotations)


 3. Of or relating to economic recession; undergoing an economic recession.

1971   Times 17 July 18   There was in later months equally a dull, indeed a recessive market.
1983   P. Gzowski Unbroken Line i. 49   Attendance at racetracks goes up in recessive times.
1991   Westcoast Logger July 33/2   Bjorkland explained that this year's recessive housing market was the direct cause of the plant's shutdown.
2007   Internat. Rev. Financial Anal. (Nexis) 16 390   No improvements are observed for firms that were divested during recessive cycles.

1971—2007(Hide quotations)

 B. n. Biol.

  An individual in which a particular recessive allele is expressed; a recessive allele or trait.

1900   W. Bateson in Jrnl. Royal Hort. Soc. 25 58   Mendel discovered that in this generation the numerical proportion of dominants to recessives is approximately constant, being in fact as three to one.
1931   E. B. Ford Mendelism & Evol. ii. iii. 47   The first gene to be discovered in Drosophila simulans was that for yellow body-colour. It is a sex-linked recessive.
1960   D. C. Braungart & R. Buddeke Introd. Animal Biol. (ed. 5) xx. 343   The third kind (tt) were homozygous for dwarfness and were the pure recessives of Mendel's F2 generation.
1998   Science 24 Apr. 505/2   Hemophilia, being an X-linked recessive condition, does not ‘hide’ like an autosomally coded recessive: it is expressed in all the hemizygous sons of a carrier mother.

1900—1998(Hide quotations)




  reˈcessively adv.

1880   Amer. Jrnl. Philol. 1 127   Possessive compounds..are always, or almost always, accented recessively.
1886   Edinb. Rev. Oct. 494   As she [sc. Greece] passes recessively from the grand Attic period to the Spartan, the Theban, the Macedonian, and the Asiatic.
1941   Sci. Monthly Apr. 362/1   Other important recessively determined types of mental defect are associated with symmetrical paralysis of both sides of the body from birth or any early age.
1977   J. Crosby Company of Friends Epil. 227   Valentina bowing recessively, staying out of the mainstream of the melody.
2004   M. V. Adams Fantasy Princ. viii. 108   Jung says that all people are ‘contrasexed’. For example, a person who is dominantly male is recessively female.

1880—2004(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, June 2009).

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