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recursion

<mathematics, programming> When a function (or procedure) calls itself. Such a function is called "recursive". If the call is via one or more other functions then this group of functions are called "mutually recursive".

If a function will always call itself, however it is called, then it will never terminate. Usually however, it first performs some test on its arguments to check for a "base case" - a condition under which it can return a value without calling itself.

The canonical example of a recursive function is factorial:

		factorial 0 = 1
		factorial n = n * factorial (n-1)


Functional programming languages rely heavily on recursion, using it where a procedural language would use iteration.

See also recursion, recursive definition, tail recursion.

[Jargon File]

(1996-05-11)


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