verb re·coil \ri-ˈki(-ə)l\

: to quickly move away from something that is shocking, frightening, or disgusting : to react to something with shock or fear

of a gun : to move back suddenly when fired

Full Definition of RECOIL

intransitive verb
a :  to fall back under pressure
b :  to shrink back physically or emotionally
:  to spring back to or as if to a starting point :  rebound
obsolete :  degenerate

Examples of RECOIL

  1. We recoiled in horror at the sight of his wounded arm.
  2. He recoiled from her touch.
  3. The rifle recoiled and bruised my shoulder.

Origin of RECOIL

Middle English reculen, recoilen, from Anglo-French reculer, recuiler, from re- + cul backside — more at culet
First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of RECOIL

recoil, shrink, flinch, wince, blench, quail mean to draw back in fear or distaste. recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust <recoiled at the suggestion of stealing>. shrink suggests an instinctive recoil through sensitiveness, scrupulousness, or cowardice <shrank from the unpleasant truth>. flinch implies a failure to endure pain or face something dangerous or frightening with resolution <faced her accusers without flinching>. wince suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction (as a start or recoiling) <winced in pain>. blench implies fainthearted flinching <stood their ground without blenching>. quail suggests shrinking and cowering in fear <quailed before the apparition>.


noun re·coil \ˈrē-ˌki(-ə)l, ri-ˈki(-ə)l\

: the sudden backward movement of a gun that happens when the gun is fired

Full Definition of RECOIL

:  the act or action of recoiling; especially :  the kickback of a gun upon firing
:  reaction <the recoil from the rigors of Calvinism — Edmund Wilson>

Examples of RECOIL

  1. The gun has a sharp recoil.

First Known Use of RECOIL

14th century

Other Military Terms

bivouac, logistics, petard, salient, sally, supernumerary, tactical
RECOIL Defined for Kids


verb re·coil \ri-ˈkil\

Definition of RECOIL for Kids

:  to draw back <He recoiled in horror.>
:  to spring back to or as if to a starting position <The rifle recoiled upon firing.>



Definition of RECOIL for Kids

:  a sudden backward movement or springing back (as of a gun just fired)


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