late 14c., recapitulacioun, "a short summary; process or act of summarizing," from Old French recapitulacion (13c.) and directly from Late Latin recapitulationem (nominative recapitulatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of recapitulare "go over the main points of a thing again," literally "restate by heads or chapters."
This is from re- "again" (see re-) + capitulum "main part," literally "little head," diminutive of caput "head," also "leader, guide, chief person; summit; capital city; origin, source, spring," figuratively "life, physical life;" in writing "a division, paragraph;" of money, "the principal sum" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
The Latin word is technically, a loan-translation of Greek anakephalaiōsis. In biology, in reference to evolutionary stages and the growth of the individual young animal, by 1875. Music sense is by 1879. Related: Recapitulative; recapitulatory.