Ahmed and Eirk, This is fairly tricky, but I believe I have things straight – I think! (<:) The transitive verb ‘cycle’ means to go through one complete repetition. <I cycled the laundry twice through the washing machine.> <I was cycled through 10 weeks of basic training.>
The intransitive verb ‘cycle’ also means to pass through one cycle, but may also mean to recur in cycles. <The machine automatically cycles.> <Life cycles on from generation to generation>
The transitive verb ‘recycle,' means to pass through a cycle again or to start a second or different cycle. <This industrial plant recycles the cooling water as many as 50 times.> <We recycle paper to save trees.> <The old factory is being recycled as a theater.> <The governor recycled some speeches from his early days.> <We decided to recycle the laundry through the washing machine.>
The intransitive verb ‘recycle’ means to undergo recycling – to cycle again. <We waited for the machine to recycle> <More students recycle into the educational system than go elsewhere.>
So, I am not in complete agreement with Erik. It would seem to me that the intransitive form of the verbs ‘cycle’ and ‘recycle’ may in some instances be interchangeable. For example, “The machine automatically recycles” and the ‘machine automatically cycles’ would mean the same thing if the intransitive ‘cycle’ were taken to mean ‘recur in cycles.’ However, if the intransitive ‘cycle’ were taken to mean ‘passing though one cycle’ (i.e. fill, wash, rinse, spin), then ‘cycle’ and ‘recycle’ would not mean the same thing. Other than this particular case, I believe all other usages are not interchangeable.
(Oxford English Dictionary, Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries, American Heritage Dictionary)
Ken – October 28, 2994
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)