1. Recurring in vicissitude; alternate.
Synonyms: Mutual, alternate.
Reciprocal, Mutual. The distinctive idea of mutual is, that the parties unite by interchange in the same act; as, a mutual covenant; mutual affection, etc. The distinctive idea of reciprocal is, that one party acts by way of return or response to something previously done by the other party; as, a reciprocal kindness; reciprocal reproaches, etc. Love is reciprocal when the previous affection of one party has drawn forth the attachment of the other. To make it mutual in the strictest sense, the two parties should have fallen in love at the same time; but as the result is the same, the two words are here used interchangeably. The ebbing and flowing of the tide is a case where the action is reciprocal, but not mutual.
Origin: L. Reciprocus; of unknown origin.
2. <mathematics> The quotient arising from dividing unity by any quantity; thus 1/4 is the reciprocal of 4; 1/(a + b) is the reciprocal of a + b. The reciprocal of a fraction is the fraction inverted, or the denominator divided by the numerator.
(01 Mar 1998)
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