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

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Synonyms for recoil

Synonyms: Verb

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

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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


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

While some diners may adjust to no-tipping norms over time, most U.S. consumers still recoil at the idea at first, Dr. Lynn says. Alina Dizik, WSJ, "Why Banning Tips Can Be a Risky Strategy for Restaurants," 30 Apr. 2018 But his other companies specializing in private spaceflight and underground supertrains – SpaceX and The Boring Company – remain private, and Musk has recoiled at the idea of exposing them to shareholder control. Drew Harwell, The Seattle Times, "Musk’s tweet on pushing Tesla to go private shocks investors," 7 Aug. 2018 Even working-class people who stand to benefit directly from government activism often recoil at the notion that their own hard work might subsidize lazy neighbors. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Democrats Are Rushing Into a Job Guarantee. It Could Be a Huge Mistake.," 25 Apr. 2018 Also imagine that it could be adjusted to fit every body style and did not recoil at a level that would bother even a novice shooter. Stephen Koff,, "Should the AR-15 and other semi-automatic weapons be regulated? 'Guns, An American Conversation'," 18 Apr. 2018 While trying to revive Camille, Richard notices her scars and visibly recoils at the sight, leaving her to cry in Curry’s arms. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Sharp Objects Finale Delivers a Shocking Twist Ending," 27 Aug. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mandus Group, a defense contractor that specializes in field artillery maintenance, figured out that the key to reducing howitzer weight was to reduce recoil. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "This Humvee-Mounted Howitzer Is Here To "Shoot and Scoot"," 20 Sep. 2017 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

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.

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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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Statistics for recoil

Last Updated

14 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for recoil

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

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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 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)

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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).


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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