Word of the Day : October 20, 2017

knee-jerk

play
adjective NEE-jerk

Definition

: readily predictable : automatic; also : reacting in a readily predictable way

Examples

The letter to the editor asserted that the proposed institution of a curfew was a knee-jerk reaction to the problem of an uptick of nighttime crime in the city.

"The habitual or knee-jerk apologist runs a great risk of losing herself through all her apologies. She sees so many of the things she does as offenses or wrongs and takes responsibility for things that are not properly hers." — Peg O'Connor, Psychology Today, 23 June 2017



Did You Know?

Around 1876, the sudden involuntary extension of the leg in response to a light blow just below the knee, which is also known as the patellar reflex, was given the refreshingly simple designation knee jerk. In the 1950s, knee-jerk became an adjective with a figurative sense that doesn't require any actual twitching. "As a salesman, I'm getting a bit weary of the knee-jerk association of a con artist with my professional calling," a correspondent once wrote to The New York Times Magazine. Knee-jerk often has a negative connotation. It usually denotes a too-hasty, impulsive, perhaps even irrational response that is often based on preconceived notions.



Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of legerity, our September 24th Word of the Day?

VIEW THE ANSWER

Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!