The role of word frequency in recognition memory and repetition priming was investigated by using a manipulation of attention. In Experiment 1, the lexical decision task produced greater repetition priming for low-frequency words than for high-frequency words following either the attended or the unattended study condition. The recognition memory test, on the other hand, showed a low-frequency word advantage only following the attended study condition. Furthermore, this advantage was limited to the measure of recognition memory based on conscious recollection of the study episode. In Experiment 2, a speeded recognition memory test replicated the pattern obtained with the unspeeded recognition memory test in Experiment 1. These results argue against the view that the word frequency effects in recognition memory and repetition priming have the same origin. Instead, the results suggest that the word frequency effect in recognition memory has its locus in conscious recollection.