1 of 2


ˈnē-ˌjərk How to pronounce knee-jerk (audio)
: readily predictable : automatic
knee-jerk reactions
also, disapproving : reacting in a readily predictable way
The man was such a bleeding-heart knee-jerk liberal that you could predict the rest of the column after reading the first sentence. Andrew M. Greeley

knee jerk

2 of 2


: an involuntary forward kick produced by a light blow on the tendon below the patella

Examples of knee-jerk in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
But debate has raged over the effectiveness of the emergency measures that some described as a knee-jerk response to complex social issues. Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024 As knee-jerk reactions to AI faded over the course of the year, new theories cropped up about AI’s trajectory. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 25 Mar. 2024 But there’s a bit more nuance to what looks like a knee-jerk response to the financial rocket fuel of low interest rates, analysts say. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2024 None of that might stem the knee-jerk opposition to the four-day week among businesses and their water carriers on Capitol Hill. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2024 When cholesterol stepped into the spotlight as something bad that clogs your arteries, there was a knee-jerk response to quit eating foods high in cholesterol like egg yolks, shellfish, organ meats, etc. Bryant Stamford, The Courier-Journal, 29 Feb. 2024 Today, corporate America’s knee-jerk reaction of tapping seemingly anyone and everyone to become a diversity leader has quickly evolved to a significant pruning of the role, with companies like Zoom laying off entire diversity teams, rescinding budgets, and freezing hiring within the function. Ruth Umoh, Fortune, 6 Mar. 2024 Through knee-jerk millennial instinct, that vulnerable bald skull always flashes me back to those unforgettable photos of Britney Spears at the gas station in 2007—head freshly shaved, eyes blank and wild, umbrella wielded as a machete. Matthew Strauss, Pitchfork, 29 Feb. 2024 At a time when violent crime is at a generational peak, when the knee-jerk response to young criminals is to lock ’em up, Yao is asking us to consider whether maximum sentencing for young offenders is the answer. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2024
The thing that keeps you from just acting out on your initial knee jerk reaction and from just acting impulsively. Alaa Elassar, CNN, 24 July 2023 One of the most common knee jerk reactions is to move assets to cash. - Powering A Personal Wealth Movement, Forbes, 5 May 2023 Here are some knee jerk reactions: The bullpen is a mess. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 26 Apr. 2023 Sometimes this knee jerk reaction takes on absurd and macabre dimensions, as when a recent New York Times article by reporter Brian M. Rosenthal on the New York City taxi-medallion system laid the blame for a rash of suicides on the shoulders of ‘predatory’ lenders. James McCarthy, National Review, 30 Nov. 2020 Paul had 11 assists, but instantly, the knee jerk reaction is Paul won’t be a scoring factor with Durant on the team. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 3 Mar. 2023 The knee jerk reaction from many old fashioned meat machines, sorry, humans, is a concern around what this means for their income. - Powering A Personal Wealth Movement, Forbes, 10 Jan. 2023 When the term was explained to the uninitiated, the knee jerk response was that paying attention to ESG (or certainly the E and S parts) was a way for companies and investors to lose money. Robert G. Eccles, Forbes, 3 June 2022 Instead of taking the knee jerk reaction of picking up your toys and going home. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 28 Feb. 2022

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

Word History

First Known Use


1958, in the meaning defined above


1849, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of knee-jerk was in 1849


Dictionary Entries Near knee-jerk

Cite this Entry

“Knee-jerk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: readily predictable : automatic
a knee-jerk reaction to the proposal

knee jerk

2 of 2 noun
: an involuntary forward kick produced by a light blow on the tendon below the kneecap

Medical Definition

knee jerk

: an involuntary forward jerk or kick produced by a light blow or sudden strain upon the patellar tendon of the knee that causes a reflex contraction of the quadriceps muscle

called also patellar reflex

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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