re·​flex·​ive | \ ri-ˈflek-siv How to pronounce reflexive (audio) \

Definition of reflexive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : directed or turned back on itself also : overtly and usually ironically reflecting conventions of genre or form a reflexive novel
b : marked by or capable of reflection : reflective
2 : of, relating to, characterized by, or being a relation that exists between an entity and itself the relation "is equal to" is reflexive but the relation "is the father of" is not
3 : of, relating to, or constituting an action (as in "he perjured himself") directed back on the agent or the grammatical subject
4 : characterized by habitual and unthinking behavior



Definition of reflexive (Entry 2 of 2)

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Other Words from reflexive


reflexively adverb
reflexiveness noun
reflexivity \ ˌrē-​ˌflek-​ˈsi-​və-​tē How to pronounce reflexive (audio) , ri-​ \ noun

Examples of reflexive in a Sentence

Adjective In “I hurt myself,” the verb “hurt” is reflexive. In the sentence “We forced ourselves to finish the assignment,” the word “ourselves” is a reflexive pronoun. For many people, the reflexive response to this kind of demand is to say no. music that triggers reflexive toe tapping
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Others ripped her, often parroting the reflexive complaint about a woman announcer’s voice being irritating. Phil Rosenthal,, "Thanks to Harry Caray, the Chicago White Sox added pioneering female announcer Mary Shane in 1977 — and why it didn’t last," 21 Feb. 2021 But a spinal cord injury essentially severs the connection between the reflexive neurons that sense blood pressure and the sympathetic nervous system that adjusts accordingly. Theresa Gaffney, STAT, "Scientists create a thermostat for blood pressure to help patients with spinal cord injuries," 27 Jan. 2021 Every positive development has come with a chorus of reflexive media skepticism. Alicia Smith, Washington Examiner, "Operation Warp Speed's success," 21 Jan. 2021 McConnell’s burgeoning alienation from Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the GOP’s long, reflexive support and condoning of Trump’s actions was eroding. Alan Fram, Anchorage Daily News, "McConnell leaves open the possibility of voting to convict Trump in impeachment trial," 13 Jan. 2021 It’s the emotional climax of the season, which has charted the journey of Cassie’s reflexive self-medication and generational alcoholism with a nuance surprising of a series that doubles as a glamorous, globe-trotting murder mystery. Ashley Lee Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "How ‘The Flight Attendant’ blew up the book to get its finale just right," 17 Dec. 2020 These self-preservation instincts are part of the reflexive nature of our biology. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, "If the United States were my patient: Science cannot rescue us from ourselves," 6 Dec. 2020 Furthermore, the idea of a reflexive use of the term reportedly didn’t exist in popular language at the time. Sarah Midkiff,, "No, Trump Can’t Pardon Himself — Here’s Why," 24 Nov. 2020 One through-line is the type of old-fashioned musicianship the academy has always rewarded; detectable too is the Grammys’ reflexive attraction to music that reaches across generational lines. Los Angeles Times, "Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa top 2021 Grammy nominations," 24 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reflexive.' 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 reflexive


1615, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


1866, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for reflexive


Medieval Latin reflexivus, from Latin reflexus

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Time Traveler for reflexive

Time Traveler

The first known use of reflexive was in 1615

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Statistics for reflexive

Last Updated

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Reflexive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for reflexive



English Language Learners Definition of reflexive

grammar : showing that the action in a sentence or clause happens to the person or thing that does the action
: happening or done without thinking as a reaction to something


re·​flex·​ive | \ ri-ˈflek-siv How to pronounce reflexive (audio) \

Medical Definition of reflexive

: characterized by habitual and unthinking behavior also : relating to or consisting of a reflex

More from Merriam-Webster on reflexive

Nglish: Translation of reflexive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reflexive for Arabic Speakers

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