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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Larger groups of stars, such as those within AGN disks, are more likely locations for strings of mergers, Gerosa says, because black holes there require much more recoil to escape. Charlie Wood, Scientific American, "Black Hole Factories May Hide at Cores of Giant Galaxies," 4 Dec. 2019 The stunned Patriots recoiled in their runner-up agony, having lost despite a star quarterback who did everything but catch a wide-open pass., "Nearly two years later, as the Eagles and Patriots prepare for their rematch of Super Bowl LII Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, the tables we thought had turned instead returned to their original places.," 13 Nov. 2019 First, SoftBank urged WeWork to shelve an initial public offering after investors recoiled. Fortune, "WeWork’s Slumping IPO Valuation Isn’t Investor SoftBank’s Only Major Problem," 13 Sep. 2019 The startled nucleus would then recoil and emit some form of energy, such as a flash of light or a sound wave. Wired, "Dark Matter Hunters Are Looking Inside Rocks for New Clues," 13 Jan. 2019 The startled nucleus would then recoil and emit some form of energy, such as a flash of light or a sound wave. Rebecca Boyle, WIRED, "Dark Matter Hunters Are Looking Inside Rocks for New Clues," 13 Jan. 2019 Yet as Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s chief operating officer, notes, in the early days of e-commerce, when people recoiled at handing over their credit-card details, trust was lacking in the West, too. The Economist, "Shopify and the return of the merchant class," 31 Aug. 2019 Republicans in Congress have echoed that view, with many recoiling even at the idea of background checks. Griff Witte, Anchorage Daily News, "As mass shootings rise, high-capacity magazines should be the focus of lawmakers, experts say," 19 Aug. 2019 Hicks makes her so funny with her woe-is-me nagging, misguided seduction attempt and obnoxious putdowns that the racist insults sting all the harder — although the audience then struggles whether to laugh or recoil. Matthew J. Palm,, "‘Bye Bye Birdie’ sits uneasily in modern times | Review," 20 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There’s a lot of energy in those tubes and a lot of recoil that can lead to fatalities. Eric Adams, Popular Mechanics, "How to Have Fun (and Stay Safe) During This Year's Fireworks-Filled Fourth," 1 July 2019 Pull the recoil handle several times to ensure that the oil is evenly distributed on the wall of the cylinder. Timothy Dahl, Popular Mechanics, "How to Winterize Your Lawn Mower Before You Stow It Away," 11 Sep. 2019 This would allow experimentalists to view a spectrum of recoils, corroborating their evidence and potentially allowing them to draw conclusions about WIMP mass, Freese said. Quanta Magazine, "Why the Best Place to Find Dark Matter May Be in a Rock," 7 Jan. 2019 With hyperburst, the G11’s recoil buffer prevented a strong recoil impulse from the three rounds, greatly improving accuracy over normal full-auto fire. Matthew Moss, Popular Mechanics, "We Got Our Hands on an HK G11, the Space-Age Rifle That Never Was," 20 Mar. 2019 All walk mowers have pull start (recoil) handles—even those with a key ignition. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The 7 Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers," 11 Apr. 2019 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

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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Time Traveler for recoil

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for recoil

Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Recoil.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 9 December 2019.

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More Definitions for recoil


How to pronounce recoil (audio)

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


How to pronounce recoil (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for recoil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with recoil

Spanish Central: Translation of recoil

Nglish: Translation of recoil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of recoil for Arabic Speakers

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