Definition of knee-jerk in US English:



  • 1attributive (of a response) automatic and unthinking.

    ‘a knee-jerk reaction’
    • ‘It's just another knee-jerk reaction from sections of the media who need to fill endless hours of TV space and thousands of newspaper column inches.’
    • ‘There will be no knee-jerk reactions and I firmly believe we'll get ourselves out of this.’
    • ‘Let me respond to a few knee-jerk misconceptions.’
    • ‘This announcement seems to be more of a knee-jerk reaction than a considered response to a terrible problem.’
    • ‘Blogging, and any form of personal publishing, tends to be filled with a lot of reactionary and knee-jerk opinion.’
    • ‘Everything he says about these issues is knee-jerk and over-bearing and made up of half-pieces of information he doesn't fully understand.’
    • ‘Do you think that was a feminist knee-jerk reaction, or do you think they misinterpreted the book?’
    • ‘There will be no knee-jerk cut in interest rates when the Bank's monetary policy committee meets next month.’
    • ‘My initial instinct is to take her side, but that's fairly obviously just a knee-jerk response on my part.’
    • ‘Such knee-jerk flag-waving is anathema to Banville, a writer who despises nationalism in all forms.’
    • ‘Mr Butler said a carbon tax was ‘a knee-jerk response to a global and complex problem’ and that a more sophisticated and appropriately costed solution would be necessary.’
    • ‘Deans emphasizes that future rape cases will be weighed individually; there will be no knee-jerk decision based on newspaper policies.’
    • ‘Until then I hope they don't rush into any knee-jerk decisions.’
    • ‘So just be careful before you leap forward with a knee-jerk response demanding gun control.’
    • ‘Such knee-jerk negativity is both premature and counterproductive.’
    • ‘This is no knee-jerk response to a tragedy; he has been campaigning on this topic for a long time.’
    • ‘It seems to happen often enough that knee-jerk reactions that involving banning things tend to have the opposite effect of what those calling for the ban expect.’
    • ‘Such events have prompted hasty - some say knee-jerk - responses by public officials.’
    • ‘Jones accused the American authorities of a knee-jerk response to its corporate scandals and said it was symptomatic of a protectionist economy.’
    • ‘There is always a danger of a knee-jerk reaction in these situations, and imposing lots of needless rules on companies going on perfectly well without them.’
    unintentional, unintended, accidental, unthinking, unwitting, inadvertent, unpremeditated, unplanned
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a person) responding in an automatic and unthinking way.
      ‘knee-jerk radicals’
      • ‘You're all looking like a bunch of knee-jerk reactionaries.’
      • ‘It's not a bunch of left-wingers or knee-jerk liberals: we're talking about prosecutors, judges, the mainstream lawyer organization.’
      • ‘People who think he isn't very smart are either knee-jerk liberals or not paying very close attention.’
      • ‘They still managed to produce a perfectly reasonable constitutional document that deserves far more respect than it has received from the knee-jerk critics here at home.’


  • A sudden involuntary reflex kick caused by a blow on the tendon just below the knee.

    • ‘Too often this country resorts to the knee-jerk in order to effect social change, maybe we just need to be a bit more inventive in the way we approach the problem.’
    • ‘Apart from involuntary knee-jerks, it's the mind that rules.’



/ˈnē ˈˌjərk//ˈni ˈˌdʒərk/