re·​coil | \ ri-ˈkȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce recoil (audio) \
recoiled; recoiling; recoils

Definition of recoil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to fall back under pressure
b : to shrink back physically or emotionally
2 : to spring back to or as if to a starting point : rebound
3 obsolete : degenerate


re·​coil | \ ˈrē-ˌkȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce recoil (audio) , ri-ˈkȯi(-ə)l \

Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act or action of recoiling especially : the kickback of a gun upon firing
2 : reaction the recoil from the rigors of Calvinism— Edmund Wilson

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Synonyms for recoil

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for recoil


recoil, shrink, flinch, wince, blench, quail mean to draw back in fear or distaste. recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust. recoiled at the suggestion of stealing shrink suggests an instinctive recoil through sensitiveness, scrupulousness, or cowardice. shrank from the unpleasant truth flinch implies a failure to endure pain or face something dangerous or frightening with resolution. faced her accusers without flinching wince suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction (such as a start or recoiling). winced in pain blench implies fainthearted flinching. stood their ground without blenching quail suggests shrinking and cowering in fear. quailed before the apparition

Examples of recoil in a Sentence

Verb We recoiled in horror at the sight of his wounded arm. He recoiled from her touch. The rifle recoiled and bruised my shoulder. Noun The gun has a sharp recoil.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There’s a series of painful scenes where people push their memories onto the lawyers, asking them to listen to stories, letters, even voicemails, making the lawyers recoil for their own sanity. Mark Olsen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 3 Sep. 2021 The girl teaches him French and does not recoil at his eagle-and-skull tattoo. Mark Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, 30 July 2021 The girl teaches him French and does not recoil at his eagle-and-skull tattoo. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, 28 July 2021 And students who don’t know Bill personally aren’t wrong to recoil at a white professor making white-supremacist hand gestures in the classroom. Judy Berman, Time, 19 Aug. 2021 Presumably, we are meant to recoil in horror, not to pause and wonder at the likelihood of an undocumented person being employed by a federal agency in the first place. The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 Other new perks have shown up that give better handling or ADS or recoil after kills. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 11 May 2021 Then prepare to recoil in genuine fear at their rising fury. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 30 July 2021 Some Republicans recoil at the idea that a government should play any role in personal decisions about childbearing. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In those instances, the controller’s triggers can increase in tension, similar to drawing back a bow string, or produce recoil as if from a gunshot. Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2021 Sean Murphy caught it and fired to second in one motion, his right leg whipping to the side, catcher’s mask loosed by the recoil. Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 July 2021 One of most reliable gas semiautos, the A400 Exreme Plus has all the bolt closers and releases that people want as well as the very effective Kick-Off recoil-reducer in the stock. Phil Bourjaily, Field & Stream, 22 Feb. 2021 So prepare to feel the recoil from weapons, and more impact from your environment in the left and right grips. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 2 Nov. 2020 See how his left arm braces itself against a branch, expecting recoil. Washington Post, 14 July 2021 Intended to be the civilian, semiautomatic version of the military’s M-16, the AR-15 and similar models are light, easy to shoot with little recoil, and powerful. Matthias Gafni, San Francisco Chronicle, 20 June 2021 Fast bullet velocity and reliable recoil control with less ammo capacity. Erik Kain, Forbes, 16 June 2021 The men in the show fight, cheat, steal, throw milk bottles impetuously through windows, recoil at the sight of blood. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 31 May 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for recoil


Middle English reculen, recoilen, from Anglo-French reculer, recuiler, from re- + cul backside — more at culet

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Time Traveler for recoil

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The first known use of recoil was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near recoil



recoil click

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Last Updated

25 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Recoil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for recoil



English Language Learners Definition of recoil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to quickly move away from something that is shocking, frightening, or disgusting : to react to something with shock or fear
: to move back suddenly when fired



English Language Learners Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

: the sudden backward movement of a gun that happens when the gun is fired


re·​coil | \ ri-ˈkȯil How to pronounce recoil (audio) \
recoiled; recoiling

Kids Definition of recoil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to draw back He recoiled in horror.
2 : to spring back to or as if to a starting position The rifle recoiled upon firing.



Kids Definition of recoil (Entry 2 of 2)

: a sudden backward movement or springing back (as of a gun just fired)

More from Merriam-Webster on recoil

Nglish: Translation of recoil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of recoil for Arabic Speakers


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