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circular reference

(1) A programming conflict whereby the operation of each of two routines requires the result from the other routine. See recursion.

(2) In a spreadsheet, a conflict in which the formula computes the cell that the formula itself is located in. For example, a formula in cell A9 that sums the values of "A7 + A8 + A9" is a circular reference.

A Spreadsheet Warning
Circular references are identified in spreadsheets. However, this Excel example does not indicate which cell is the problem.


In programming, the ability of a subroutine or program module to call itself. It is used to write routines that solve problems by repeatedly processing the output of the same process. See recurse subdirectories, circular reference and recursive descent parser.

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