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 reflexivity (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 Questioning the timing of allegations is a first-line, reflexive, think-no-deeper defense heard often from accused men amid the #MeToo reckoning. The Atlantic, "The 7 Most Defining #MeToo Moments of 2019," 12 Dec. 2019 As an avid Android acolyte, my reflexive response has been to say that Android has already been ahead of iOS in a number of important respects like its first-party apps, cloud services, and digital assistant. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "What do we even mean when we say ‘Android’?," 11 May 2018 Democrats accused Republicans of turning a blind eye to misconduct by Trump out of reflexive loyalty to their party., "WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee trudged toward a historic vote Thursday to push President Trump to the brink of impeachment, turning back Republican attempts to kill the articles of impeachment in a fractious debate on Democrats’ charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.," 14 Dec. 2019 Conservatism—the reflexive inclination toward continuity and gradual progress rather than toward the disruptive spasm of revolt—may be Brexit’s biggest casualty in the nation’s public life. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "How George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” Resonates in the England of 2019," 21 Nov. 2019 Still, the book, which is set in Didion’s home town of Sacramento, is not just a reflexive or academic exercise. Hilton Als, The New Yorker, "Joan Didion’s Early Novels of American Womanhood," 25 Nov. 2019 The rise of Donald Trump, and the reflexive resilience of his public support, has produced a singular American moment. Jon Meacham, Time, "The Impeachment Inquiry Is About More Than Donald Trump — It’s About Who We Are as Americans," 7 Nov. 2019 Neither Mr Clinton nor Nixon were so reflexive, habitual or ambitious in such matters. The Economist, "The move towards impeachment marks a dangerous shift," 26 Sep. 2019 Whenever the idea of Brady playing for another team was raised, the reflexive, dismissive response was that Patriots owner Robert Kraft would franchise-tag Brady before ever letting him decamp Fort Foxborough, so don’t waste your breath. Christopher L. Gasper,, "Here’s the deal: Tom Brady’s Patriot days could be over after this season," 8 Aug. 2019

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

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Reflexive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for reflexive


How to pronounce reflexive (audio)

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

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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

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