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


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

This reflexive individualism has put off solutions that consider science and give regional attention to rivers rather than scattershot state laws. Max Holleran, The New Republic, "The Water Wars Are Here," 13 Sep. 2019 Others, for various reasons, have freely and enthusiastically become reflexive defenders of the president. John Hood, National Review, "New Nationalists Make Three Big Bets," 28 Aug. 2019 Mr Bishop, overcoming a reflexive Republican aversion to handouts, sponsored a bill signed into law in July in North Carolina’s statehouse to funnel money for health care and poverty alleviation to the Lumbee. The Economist, "What a Republican victory in North Carolina means for 2020," 14 Sep. 2019 That’s why the first, reflexive response by a health plan to a big claim is to deny it, forcing the claimant to file an appeal. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Did the FTC mislead consumers about its Equifax data breach settlement? Yes!," 10 Sep. 2019 And yet, among the first things that Swift must surely have learned about the English is that the deployment of sarcasm is a reflexive response to just about any situation—a national sport, almost. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "With “London Boy,” the English Delight in Some Fine Mockery of Taylor Swift," 26 Aug. 2019 Though video has a shorter history than other art media, its association with conventional narrative action draws out a reflexive expectation that something is bound to happen in Yurkovich’s play of images. Sarah Rose Sharp,, "Attention Must Be Paid: ‘Intercepted’ moments at H-Space," 25 Aug. 2019 Reviewing a business on the web is reflexive, at this point, for many of us. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "You can be sued for posting a negative online review," 1 Aug. 2019 Thus, Twitter has lit up with speculation that Paramount Pictures tweaked Maverick's iconic jacket in reflexive pandering to Beijing. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Top Gun: Maverick' Trailer Sparks Controversy as Fans Notice Taiwanese Flag Missing From Tom Cruise's Jacket," 22 July 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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Statistics for reflexive

Last Updated

14 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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

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).


to fake an opponent out of position

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