re·​coil | \ ri-ˈkȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce recoil (audio) \
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 How to pronounce recoil (audio) , 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

Synonyms for recoil

Synonyms: Verb

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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

Verb We recoiled in horror at the sight of his wounded arm. He recoiled from her touch. The rifle recoiled and bruised my shoulder. Noun The gun has a sharp recoil.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The exact same brotherly ties between Ukraine and Russia that Putin wrote about in an essay on their historical unity may cause a significant number of Russians to recoil if the war becomes long, or particularly bloody. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 25 Feb. 2022 Some Republicans recoil from the legislative efforts. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2022 But the elderly Filipinos did not shudder or recoil. Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2022 In my experience, things that get relatively close to me recoil and vanish. Ginny Hogan, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2022 Parents shouldn't be teaching their children to recoil from the opportunity to learn about children with disabilities. Stephanie H. Murray, The Week, 8 Mar. 2022 With the quick motion of jumping, your muscles and tendons have to contract and recoil faster, while still providing an equal amount of force. New York Times, 7 Jan. 2022 Our minds don’t like this though, and recoil against what seem like huge extra charges for what are often minor changes in schedule. Brad Templeton, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 But Feige promises that the camera and focus won’t recoil from the violence. Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The main advantage of the gas gun is greatly reduced felt recoil. Phil Bourjaily, Field & Stream, 25 Jan. 2021 When properly fit, this change will make a tremendous difference in felt recoil, as well as increase the shootability of your gun. Chris Mudgett, Outdoor Life, 18 Sep. 2020 That, combined with the recoil of the weapon, Merrill said, makes the pistol impossible to control and significantly raises the danger of bystanders being caught in the line of fire. Dale Ellis, Arkansas Online, 28 Mar. 2022 Our delicate sensibilities in the West recoil from notions that civilizations offer histories and a present that represent greatly differing and clashing values, ways of understanding the world, patterns of belief, and systems of behavior. John Hillen, National Review, 26 Mar. 2022 Pistols are firearms that can be fired one-handed if necessary and fire a low-recoil cartridge. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 2 Mar. 2022 The laser energy heats and vaporizes the capsule’s outer layer, blowing it away and creating a recoil that compresses and heats the fuel in the center. Philip Ball, Scientific American, 2 Feb. 2022 The building’s deferential lean can feel like a recoil at certain angles. Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2022 Still, balancing World War II weapons that produce more recoil against those with modern upgrades like night vision and laser sights may not be the easiest feat. Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Time Traveler for recoil

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

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Dictionary Entries Near recoil



recoil click

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Last Updated

4 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Recoil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for recoil


re·​coil | \ ri-ˈkȯil How to pronounce recoil (audio) \
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)

More from Merriam-Webster on recoil

Nglish: Translation of recoil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of recoil for Arabic Speakers


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