Words-worth: Recovery

Are we experiencing a 'recovery' or not? It's too early to say, even if we can agree on what it will look like.

The word suggests a return to health, but its origins are in the law. It arrived in English from Anglo-Norman in the early 15th century. The Anglo-Norman word recoverie meant the act or process of regaining something as a result of a legal judgment, and the English usage followed that. It is still used in that way. It wasn't until a century or so later that it began to be employed in less technical senses: for the return of a person to a healthy condition, for instance. It is from this that our economic sense seems to have emerged, during the 19th century: this 'recovery' is a return to a healthier financial position. Listen to the radio and you can hear it applied to stock market prices, to the value of currencies and to house prices. But what we most want is for it to be applied to the country's economy after a recession - and for that we may have to wait a while.

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