Definition of recoil in English:


Syllabification: re·coil


Pronunciation: /riˈkoil
[no object]
  • 1Suddenly spring or flinch back in fear, horror, or disgust: he recoiled in horror
    More example sentences
    • For some completely unknown reason I hadn't pulled away, or recoiled in disgust and horror.
    • He dropped it suddenly and recoiled with disgust.
    • She pulled away, recoiling suddenly as if she'd been stabbed with a cattle prod.
    draw back, jump back, pull back; flinch, shy away, shrink (back)
  • 1.1Feel fear, horror, or disgust at the thought or prospect of something; shrink mentally: Renee felt herself recoil at the very thought
    More example sentences
    • Refreshingly, she recoils at the idea of that mirage known as ‘quality time’.
    • The theory is that Fraser recoiled from the idea of blaming a widely revered figure, and fellow Westminster alumni, especially one who cannot now defend himself.
    • Some editors have recoiled from the idea, finding it a bit unseemly.
    feel revulsion at, feel disgust at, be unable to stomach, shrink from, balk at
  • 1.2(Of a gun) move abruptly backward as a reaction on firing a bullet, shell, or other missile.
    More example sentences
    • One shot bellowed out, and his gun recoiled, jumping backwards from the force of the bullet ripping from its nozzle.
    • The front trigger is articulated to move forward a little when the gun recoils and then you move your finger forward for the right modified barrel.
    • The rifle recoiled as it fired, and the shell exploded about a foot short of the missile.
    kick (back), jerk back, spring back
  • 1.3Rebound or spring back through force of impact or elasticity: the muscle has the ability to recoil
    More example sentences
    • The principle stress-bearing elements of the lung, which account for its tendency to recoil, are elastin and collagen fiber networks and surface tension.
    • Hence, although we fix the vessel under distension, once the load is removed, the elastin will recoil and consequently have a tortuous geometry.
    • This is due to elastic tendons that stretch and recoil, enabling the animals to ‘bounce’ along the ground like a pogo stick.
  • 1.4 (recoil on/upon) (Of an action) have an adverse reactive effect on (the originator): the soothsayers agreed that all the dangers would recoil on the heads of those who were in possession of the entrails
    More example sentences
    • Stepping forward, threateningly close, he declared: ‘We tell you plainly that what you have said will recoil upon your head.’
    • All suffering recoils on the wrongdoer himself.
    • If I hate my neighbor, the hatred will recoil upon me.
    have an adverse effect on, rebound on, affect badly, backfire on, boomerang on, come back to haunt
    archaic redound on


Pronunciation: /ˈrēˌkoil, riˈkoil
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  • The action of recoiling: his body jerked with the recoil of the rifle
    More example sentences
    • The light recoil and modest slide pace lull the shooter into a false sense of security.
    • No matter how well you explain recoil or emphasize proper shooting stance, that first shot is a surprise.
    • The recoil made his shoulder start hurting again.


Middle English (denoting the act of retreating): from Old French reculer 'move back', based on Latin culus 'buttocks'.

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elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody