Definition of recoil in English:

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Pronunciation: /rəˈkoil/
[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.
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/
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'.

  • This word first meant the act of retreating. It is from Old French reculer ‘move back’, based on Latin culus ‘buttocks’. The sense ‘spring back in horror’ dates from the early 16th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: re·coil

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