late 14c., replicacioun, "an answer, a verbal response;" also, specifically in law, "a rejoinder, legal reply" (third step in the pleadings in a common-law action), from Anglo-French replicacioun, Old French replicacion "reply, answer," from Latin replicationem (nominative replicatio) "a reply, repetition, a folding back," noun of action from past-participle stem of replicare "to repeat, reply.
This is etymologically "to fold back," from re- "back, again" (see re-) + plicare "to fold" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait"). The meaning "a copy, reproduction" is recorded by 1690s. The sense of "process by which genetic material copies itself" is from 1948.
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word-forming element meaning "back, back from, back to the original place;" also "again, anew, once more," also conveying the notion of "undoing" or "backward," etc. (see sense evolution below), c. 1200, from Old French re- and directly from Latin re- an inseparable prefix meaning "again; back; anew, against."
Watkins (2000) describes this as a "Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European *wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- "to turn." De Vaan says the "only acceptable etymology" for it is a 2004 explanation which reconstructs a root in PIE *ure "back."
In earliest Latin the prefix became red- before vowels and h-, a form preserved in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant, redintegrate, and, in disguise, render (v.). In some English words from French and Italian re- appears as ra- and the following consonant is often doubled (see rally (v.1)).
The many meanings in the notion of "back" give re- its broad sense-range: "a turning back; opposition; restoration to a former state; "transition to an opposite state." From the extended senses in "again," re- becomes "repetition of an action," and in this sense it is extremely common as a formative element in English, applicable to any verb. OED writes that it is "impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use," and adds that "The number of these is practically infinite ...."
Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is forgotten, lost in secondary senses, or weakened beyond recognition, so that it has no apparent semantic content (receive, recommend, recover, reduce, recreate, refer, religion, remain, request, require). There seem to have been more such words in Middle English than after, e.g. recomfort (v.) "to comfort, console; encourage;" recourse (n.) "a process, way, course." Recover in Middle English also could mean "obtain, win" (happiness, a kingdom, etc.) with no notion of getting something back, also "gain the upper hand, overcome; arrive at;" also consider the legal sense of recovery as "obtain (property) by judgment or legal proceedings."
And, due to sound changes and accent shifts, re- sometimes entirely loses its identity as a prefix (rebel, relic, remnant, restive, rest (n.2) "remainder," rally (v.1) "bring together"). In a few words it is reduced to r-, as in ransom (a doublet of redemption), rampart, etc.
Prefixed to a word beginning with e, re- is separated by a hyphen, as re-establish, re-estate, re-edify, etc. ; or else the second e has a dieresis over it: as, reëstablish, reëmbark, etc. The hyphen is also sometimes used to bring out emphatically the sense of repetition or iteration : as, sung and re-sung. The dieresis is not used over other vowels than e when re is prefixed : thus, reinforce, reunite, reabolish. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
It forms all or part of: accomplice; application; apply; complex; complexion; complicate; complication; complicity; deploy; display; duplex; duplicate; duplicity; employ; explicate; explicit; exploit; flax; implex; implicate; implication; implicit; imply; multiply; perplex; perplexity; plait; plash (v.2) "to interlace;" pleat; -plex; plexus; pliable; pliant; plie; plight (n.1) "condition or state;" ply (v.1) "work with, use;" ply (v.2) "to bend; ply (n.) "a layer, fold;" replica; replicate; replication; reply; simplex; splay; triplicate.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit prasna- "turban;" Greek plekein "to plait, braid, wind, twine," plektos "twisted;" Latin plicare "to lay, fold, twist," plectere (past participle plexus) "to plait, braid, intertwine;" Old Church Slavonic plesti "to braid, plait, twist," Russian plesti; Gothic flahta "braid;" Old Norse fletta, Old High German flehtan "to plait;" Old English fleax "cloth made with flax, linen."
early 15c. (Chauliac), replicaten, "repeat," from Late Latin replicatus, past participle of replicare "to reply, repeat," in classical Latin "fold back, fold over, bend back," from re- "back, again" (see re-) + plicare "to fold" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait").
Meaning "to copy, reproduce, make a replica of" is from 1882, a back-formation from replication. The scientific sense of "repeat (an experiment) and get a consistent result" is by 1923. Genetic sense is recorded from 1957. Related: Replicated; replicating; replicative.
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scientists will not believe an experimental result until they have seen at least one replication