re·​flex·​ive | \ri-ˈflek-siv \

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 , ri-​ \ noun

Examples of reflexive in a Sentence


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

From the start, these groups were both productive and self-reflexive. Nancy Baym, WIRED, "Book Excerpt: How Music Fans Built the Internet," 10 July 2018 But the early defense of Jordan suggests a reflexive urge for members of his party to back one of their own. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Jim Jordan is accused of turning a blind eye to Ohio State sexual abuse. Now he’s attacking the accusers.," 6 July 2018 Of course, in the United States and many other countries, smiling is a common, reflexive gesture of goodwill. Samuel Putnam, Washington Post, "Russians don’t smile much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you," 30 June 2018 The little girl’s arm shot up in a reflexive show of power. Lorraine Ali,, "About Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean bride auction redo and why people hate it and love it," 14 June 2018 Energy companies must get beyond the reflexive rejection of regulation to maintain their credibility as entities seeking solutions to climate change, said Pratima Rangarajan, CEO of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. Zack Colman, Scientific American, "Gas Industry Grapples with Culpability," 29 June 2018 Sometimes his reflexive hiccups were the only sound. Linda Wolff,, "More than 30 years later, a visit to the old home where kids played and Dad used to smoke his pipe," 16 June 2018 Critics claimed Trump's gesture gave North Korea more reason to claim legitimacy on the world stage, while others called it a reflexive, if unfortunate, snafu. Joshua Hafner, USA TODAY, "OnPolitics Today: 'We'll stop it,' FBI agent said of Trump election," 14 June 2018 One of the most disconcerting trends of the modern internet is the specific, reflexive ways that bad actors have learned to manipulate and dismiss inconvenient truths by using the culture, systems, and mechanics of the internet. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "Elon Musk thinks you can crowdsource truth, but that’s not how the internet works," 24 May 2018

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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Statistics for reflexive

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Time Traveler for reflexive

The first known use of reflexive was in 1615

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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 \

Medical Definition of reflexive 

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on reflexive

Spanish Central: Translation of reflexive

Nglish: Translation of reflexive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reflexive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on reflexive

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


a private place of worship

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