- To formally abandon a belief or a particular statement of belief, generally under order from an ecclesiastical authority (often a synod or ecumenical council, or, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Inquisition, Holy Office, or even on rare occasion the contemporary Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to enforce an orthodoxy. If ordered to recant by such an ecclesiastical authority, one who refused to recant is anathematized or excommunicated. Sometimes the order included threats of physical punishment (e.g., the proverbial burning at the stake, as happened in the trial of St. Jeanne d'Arc).
- In classical Roman poetry, after describing something hyperbolically, to briefly re-describe it without the exaggeration. (This is the original meaning.)