I recently found a question tagged with , and my first immediate thought went to recursive function calls in programming. Then my thoughts went to the -r option you can specify with most command-line based utilities. And finally, my thoughts went to simply traversing a folder and all subfolders/files.

So, Super User: do you really think the tag is meaningful?

I just believe there's too many different uses/definitions of the word in the computer world. If a user wants to find a question/answer using a recursive command line, couldn't he/she just search for the actual -r flag?

Right now, there are a total of 42 questions tagged recursive. Also, there's only at most four questions tagged with both and another particular command-line utility (e.g. 4 questions tagged both and ), and it drops off of there. For reference, a list of the first few related tags:

  • linux × 13
  • command-line × 8
  • folder × 8
  • ubuntu × 5
  • windows × 5
  • find × 4
  • bash × 4
  • ls × 4
  • wget × 4
  • html × 3
  • chmod × 3
  • download × 3
  • windows-7 × 3

I think this better illustrates my point. There doesn't seem to be any particular connection between the recursive tag and any others, especially when it comes to particular CLI utilities.

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    So the discovery that it's not a redundant tag makes it somehow less relevant?
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 19:06
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    @DanielBeck I don't mean to imply that all tags need to be redundant, but there's clearly a disparity between the tag's meaning, and how useful it becomes as a tag. Do you think a generic command-line switch deserves a tag in it's own-right? Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 19:33
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    And on that point, perhaps another equally relevant question to ask is, how would you describe the tag in its Wiki entry? Could you give it a "meaningful" definition (meaningful being with respect to what tags are and what they're used for)? Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 19:37
  • The original comment was meant to give you a chance to reinforce your case, as it wasn't clear why you showed the related tag distribution (the opposite, a strong correlation between tags, could be used to reinforce tag removal/synonyms, so why show that this isn't the case?). I'm still on the fence about the tag.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 19:44
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    google.ca/… Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 20:35
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    @Luke and which of the hundreds of different definitions/uses should we go with? The mathematical definition of a recursive function? The computer science definition, which really has no relation to the "recursive" flag found in most CLI utilities (as the set is already known to be finite)? The definition from a commonly used English dictionary? Based on the definition from some GNU utilities? Am I wrong to believe that if we can't come up with an effective definition for a particular tag, then perhaps that particular tag shouldn't be on Super User to begin with? Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 21:14
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    @Breakthrough I agree it shouldn't be on here, but that is also an old Google joke. If you Google Recursion, it asks "Do you mean 'recursion'?" Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 22:23
  • @Luke lol my bad, I thought you were just throwing the link there for the definition... Haha that's an awesome find. Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 0:01
  • @Breakthrough what's the difference between the mathematical definition and the computer science one?
    – barlop
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 4:38
  • @barlop I was thinking more in terms of recursively-defined sets, but the functional definition is indeed shared between the mathematical and compsci definitions. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 17:34
  • See also: meta.superuser.com/questions/6055
    – ale
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


Make it a synonym of .


I agree--we don't really need the recursive tag. Especially when recursive gets overloaded to mean both recursive function and -r.

  • Those aren't really distinct meanings. Both are useful for processing all files or directories inside a filesystem, including those nested many directories deep. In fact, if a shell script function were to expose a -r option, it would probably use recursive function calls to implement it.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 17:10

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