Iterate, iteration, iterative — it’s all evidence of the iteracy afflicting Facebook, Google and others, suggests Ben Zimmer in the New York Times (6/13/10). "We’re trying to be innovative and iterative with our development," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said while trying to explain Facebook’s iterative approach to user privacy. The mantra among Google’s engineers is "Launch Early and Iterate." Google has been known to test "41 different shades of blue for its toolbar," consequently.
That might qualify for reiteration rather than iteration, and certainly falls short of innovation. The verb "iterate" is derived from the Latin "iterare," or "to repeat" and "entered English as a participial adjective meaning ‘done again,’ recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary from 1471. The verb came on the scene in the 1530s, more than a century after its repetitive comrade ‘reiterate’ grew out of the Latin ‘reiterare’ (sharing the sense of iterare)." Are you iterated yet?
To "reiterate" came to mean stating the same thing repeatedly, while "iterate" became associated with mathematics, meaning "the application of a formula in repeated fashion, taking the result from one pass and feeding it back as input for the next go-round." Computer programmers began reiterating the term in the late 1960s, and now it’s all the rage, to the point where Amazon recently advertised for a software engineer and "singled out the ‘ability to iterate on an idea’ as a critical qualification." Objects need not apply.