flinched; flinching; flinches

intransitive verb

: to withdraw or shrink from or as if from pain : wince
He flinched when he was presented with the car repair bill.
also : to tense the muscles involuntarily in anticipation of discomfort
I cannot help flinching when I hear the dentist's drill.
flinch noun
flincher noun
Choose the Right Synonym for flinch

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 (such 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

Examples of flinch in a Sentence

He flinched when I tapped him on the shoulder. She met danger without flinching. The bill was much higher than expected, but he paid it without flinching.
Recent Examples on the Web The mayor nodded and smiled, but also flinched, as though struck by spittle. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2024 Rams outside linebacker Earnest Jones appeared to jump in the neutral zone, causing Decker and left guard Jonah Jackson to move, but officials ruled Decker flinched first. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, 15 Jan. 2024 Pugh is unfortunately far from the first star to flinch away from random objects. Shania Russell, EW.com, 3 Dec. 2023 The exhibition doesn’t flinch from those realities. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2024 Nor should teachers flinch from illuminating the darker corners of our story and providing context about how those misdeeds still impact our present. Jeff Raikes, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 The Trojans didn’t flinch on the big, unfamiliar stage in Las Vegas. Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2024 Wacha, who played for the Padres last season, didn’t flinch in the moment. Jaylon Thompson, Kansas City Star, 27 Feb. 2024 When the fly stepped onto the vice president’s forehead, Smith didn’t flinch. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 5 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'flinch.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French flenchir to bend, of Germanic origin; akin to Middle High German lenken to bend, Old High German hlanca flank — more at lank

First Known Use

1578, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of flinch was in 1578

Dictionary Entries Near flinch

Cite this Entry

“Flinch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flinch. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to draw back from or as if from physical pain : wince
flinch noun
flincher noun

More from Merriam-Webster on flinch

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