re·​coil | \ri-ˈkȯi(-ə)l \
recoiled; recoiling; recoils

Definition of recoil 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to fall back under pressure

b : to shrink back physically or emotionally

2 : to spring back to or as if to a starting point : rebound

3 obsolete : degenerate


re·​coil | \ˈrē-ˌkȯi(-ə)l, ri-ˈkȯi(-ə)l\

Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act or action of recoiling especially : the kickback of a gun upon firing

2 : reaction the recoil from the rigors of Calvinism— Edmund Wilson

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for recoil

Synonyms: Verb

blench, cringe, flinch, quail, shrink, squinch, wince

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for 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 (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 recoil in a Sentence


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


The gun has a sharp recoil.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the video, Blake pulls out a gun, Santana recoils and starts to turn away, then falls to the ground on his right side, the paper reported. Robert Gearty, Fox News, "Video captures moment off-duty New York City cop shoots 'love rival' on the street," 4 Aug. 2018 The book details how his wife, Emma Smith, and many leaders recoiled and questioned the direction. Brady Mccombs, The Seattle Times, "New Mormon narrative history book includes polygamous roots," 4 Sep. 2018 Bernabei reported an annual modulation in lower-energy nuclear recoils that was broadly similar to the signal for higher-energy recoils. Natalie Wolchover, WIRED, "Trouble Detected in Infamous Dark Matter Signal," 18 Apr. 2018 Sixty years ago, when the Soviet Union put the first manmade satellite in orbit, Americans recoiled at the idea of being technologically surpassed by a dangerous rival, and the furor over Sputnik ultimately produced the space race. Anchorage Daily News, "The Pentagon isn’t taking UFOs seriously enough," 16 Mar. 2018 Voters recoiled from the policy, revolted by vivid pictures of children kept in pens made of chain-link fence and audio of toddlers wailing for their parents. Chris Brennan,, "Lou Barletta rolls with Trump, as president shifts policy at border," 25 June 2018 Now, King hopes that Trump realizes the conservative base will recoil at anything resembling amnesty. Paul Kane, Anchorage Daily News, "Congress' record on immigration is repeated failures," 24 June 2018 But just a few milliseconds after impact, the droplet forms a cavity that recoils and creates a small column of liquid. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "Here’s What Makes a Dripping Faucet Go ‘Plink’," 22 June 2018 Colbert joked that not everyone eats carbs, to which Schumer recoiled in mock-horror and shock. Amy Mackelden, Marie Claire, "Amy Schumer's Honeymoon Was Filled With Pasta and Wine," 10 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

What happens when a drone has a recoil momentum equal to the momentum of a fireball? Rhett Allain, WIRED, "The Physics of Launching Fireworks From a Drone," 4 July 2018 When asked to explain his actions, the linebacker who crushed the quarterback, forcing him from the game with injuries to the back and knee, delivered an answer that made many recoil: his coaches told him to do it. Ken Belson, New York Times, "The Football Hit Felt All Over Japan," 22 May 2018 Related The firearms industry is marketing silencers, also known as suppressors, as hearing protection for shooters and a way to soften the recoil on guns. Dan Frosch, WSJ, "Why More Gun Owners Use Silencers," 5 May 2018 Overall, DAMA’s signal should be strongest for the very-lowest-energy recoils. Natalie Wolchover, WIRED, "Trouble Detected in Infamous Dark Matter Signal," 18 Apr. 2018 Those policy concerns are reinforcing the cultural and stylistic suburban recoil from Trump visible in both polls and the 2017 election results from Virginia to Alabama. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, "Small-town America has gotten an economic jolt under Trump," 20 Mar. 2018 Such bump-fire devices use the recoil of a semiautomatic firearm to rapidly pull the trigger, mimicking fully automatic firing. Christal Hayes, USA TODAY, "Ban bump stocks? Justice Department moves to make them illegal to own or sell," 10 Mar. 2018 This device involved a spring — basically, the recoil of the gun would compress the spring, and then the spring would push the gun back forward into the user’s trigger finger. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump is talking about doing something that might be illegal — again," 27 Feb. 2018 Miami Herald reporter Chuck Rabin tries out the simulator using a Glock pistol with a recoil kit designed to be used in simulators at the Miami-Dade police firearms training facility. Charles Rabin, miamiherald, "Even with years of training, stopping live shooter is incredibly hard, experts say | Miami Herald," 15 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'recoil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of recoil


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for recoil


Middle English reculen, recoilen, from Anglo-French reculer, recuiler, from re- + cul backside — more at culet

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about recoil

Statistics for recoil

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for recoil

The first known use of recoil was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for recoil



English Language Learners Definition of recoil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

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


re·​coil | \ri-ˈkȯil \
recoiled; recoiling

Kids Definition of recoil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to draw back He recoiled in horror.

2 : to spring back to or as if to a starting position The rifle recoiled upon firing.



Kids Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on recoil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with recoil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for recoil

Spanish Central: Translation of recoil

Nglish: Translation of recoil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of recoil for Arabic Speakers

Comments on recoil

What made you want to look up recoil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!