Definition of recoil in US English:



[no object]
  • 1Suddenly spring or flinch back in fear, horror, or disgust.

    ‘he recoiled in horror’
    • ‘He began to pull up his shirt and the children recoiled in horror.’
    • ‘He dropped it suddenly and recoiled with disgust.’
    • ‘My boys took one look at her and recoiled in horror.’
    • ‘Yet as he touched it, she suddenly pulled it away; even in her unconscious state, she recoiled from the touch of another man.’
    • ‘The fur was very soft and warm and the rabbit trembled slightly as I probed its smashed up hind legs with the tips of my fingers, then suddenly recoiled as they sunk into wet, ripped flesh.’
    • ‘Instead I recoiled in horror, letting out a loud, involuntary gasp of disgust, and dropped them back where I'd found them.’
    • ‘It took me a couple of seconds to focus before I recoiled in horror.’
    • ‘The next morning, I reached down to stroke my sleek calves and recoiled in horror when my fingers encountered a disgusting prickliness.’
    • ‘She pulled away, recoiling suddenly as if she'd been stabbed with a cattle prod.’
    • ‘For some completely unknown reason I hadn't pulled away, or recoiled in disgust and horror.’
    • ‘He reached out as if meaning to grasp my hand but recoiled suddenly.’
    • ‘But she had no sooner taken a few steps forward than she suddenly recoiled.’
    • ‘I have a face that only a mother could love, and even then she'd need a couple of strong wines to keep from recoiling in horror.’
    • ‘It was too much like an echo of the past; I flinched and recoiled from him.’
    • ‘After recoiling in horror when she realised it wasn't her boyfriend, she told the man to get out of her room and reported the matter to the police.’
    • ‘Lisa suddenly recoiled, drawing back her hand, standing up.’
    • ‘I felt Jack's arm snake around my waist suddenly and wanted to recoil, but just gave him a fake loving smile instead.’
    • ‘The girl flinched and recoiled, but after a few seconds, she stared at the ground again.’
    • ‘Only a few moments passed before the unicorn whinnied, and suddenly recoiled, as if jarred by an electric shock.’
    • ‘Suddenly Fenton's face recoiled and his hand flew up to his nose.’
    draw back, jump back, spring back, jerk back, pull back
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    1. 1.1 Feel fear, horror, or disgust at the thought or prospect of something; shrink mentally.
      ‘Renee felt herself recoil at the very thought’
      • ‘But even those who agreed seemed to recoil at the idea of actually doing it.’
      • ‘We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience.’
      • ‘Many social scientists recoil from the idea that though particular wars may be avoided, war is endemic in the human condition.’
      • ‘Our human instincts immediately recoil from that idea, immediately thinking that one is obviously ‘worse’ than the other.’
      • ‘She recoils at the idea that she's simply lending her name to these products.’
      • ‘And while other housemates recoiled in horror at the thought of picking objects out of a bucket of sheep's eyes, he grabbed a handful and wolfed it down.’
      • ‘Child advocates recoil at the idea of thousands of children being raised in long-term substitute care.’
      • ‘And it largely worked because people instinctively recoil at the idea of nosy creeps like him rifling through other people's underwear drawers.’
      • ‘I think it's clear the voters recoil at the idea of the government trying to play politics with this national tragedy.’
      • ‘Some editors have recoiled from the idea, finding it a bit unseemly.’
      • ‘We all should recoil from the idea that a human being must possess certain attributes in order to qualify as a person - not only for the sake of justice, but also for self-interest.’
      • ‘And still some people might react with disgust at the idea, recoil at the thought of it, or simply say that it's too strong a word.’
      • ‘The young mistress, on her part, recoiled from the idea of having an old lover, and so she pulled out his white hairs.’
      • ‘It seems that many of those in the American elite who would recoil at the idea of explicit quotas are happy to tolerate more subtle systems that accomplish the same thing.’
      • ‘Software makers, however, have recoiled at such an idea, knowing that customers will receive tremendous horsepower and need fewer processors.’
      • ‘I'm sure young people are recoiling in horror from the thought!’
      • ‘Refreshingly, she recoils at the idea of that mirage known as ‘quality time’.’
      • ‘What happens next still has me shuddering and recoiling with horror.’
      • ‘Their censorship of foreign art films shows the party recoiling from foreign ideas that many of its members neither understand nor like.’
      • ‘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.’
      feel revulsion at, feel disgust at, feel abhorrence at, be unable to bear, be unable to stomach, shrink from, shy away from, baulk at, hesitate at
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    2. 1.2 (of a gun) move abruptly backward as a reaction on firing a bullet, shell, or other missile.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To me, the gun recoils a bit less with a rod in it.’
      • ‘‘It sure hurts the shoulder,’ Shelley said, rubbing where the gun's stock recoiled into her bones.’
      • ‘One shot bellowed out, and his gun recoiled, jumping backwards from the force of the bullet ripping from its nozzle.’
      • ‘The gun recoiled as the bolt left the gun and flew through the air.’
      • ‘The gun recoiled, and I saw my shot fly forward and hit him in the chest.’
      • ‘When the enemy reached the middle of the open space, he fired, and the gun hardly recoiled at all.’
      kick, kick back, jerk back, spring back, fly back, jump back
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    3. 1.3 Rebound or spring back through force of impact or elasticity.
      ‘the muscle has the ability to recoil’
      • ‘This is due to elastic tendons that stretch and recoil, enabling the animals to ‘bounce’ along the ground like a pogo stick.’
      • ‘Composites recoil or bounce as they absorb much of the energy from a slow blow, and they don't catch fire as readily either.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If you stretch too far, ‘the muscle recoils to protect itself,’ he says.’
      • ‘The quarks recoiled, and the small shockwave forced three neutrons out of the atom.’
    4. 1.4recoil 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’
      • ‘If I hate my neighbor, the hatred will recoil upon me.’
      • ‘A dictated peace is not a true peace; punitive terms recoil on our own heads.’
      • ‘Characters also recoil on their authors in the wake of writing; when Elias Canetti finished Auto-da-Fe, he fell into confused remorse and guilt for inventing the death by fire that was his protagonist Kien's fate.’
      • ‘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.’
      rebound on, come back on, affect badly
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  • The action of recoiling.

    ‘his body jerked with the recoil of the rifle’
    • ‘There is little noise and no recoil to frighten a young shooter.’
    • ‘Without thinking, Shelley squeezed the gun's trigger and took a step back to compensate for the surprise amount of recoil.’
    • ‘One caution: be sure you have the scope mounted properly in terms of recoil.’
    • ‘You'll get used to it and you'll find ways to reduce the amount of recoil.’
    • ‘This provides the skeleto-muscular support required in order to handle recoil without discomfort.’
    • ‘The recoil, for example, was negligible, and the gun was certainly not on a hair-trigger.’
    • ‘The recoil from the shot blew James onto his back, unconscious once again.’
    • ‘In recoil, one of the mortally wounded soldiers pulled the trigger of his gun, causing a single bullet to strike his attacker.’
    • ‘Ensure the scope is mounted properly to handle recoil.’
    • ‘It was beautiful, really, and could, with a strong enough arm, be fired one-handed without threat of recoil breaking one's bones.’
    • ‘I made it lighter, and manipulated the chamber, so that it fires twice as fast without losing any control or gaining consequent recoil.’
    • ‘The assembly is strong and rigid, with no ring or scope movement from recoil.’
    • ‘The stock is designed with more mass to help reduce recoil.’
    • ‘The recoil made his shoulder start hurting again.’
    • ‘The light recoil and modest slide pace lull the shooter into a false sense of security.’
    • ‘The recoil brought the barrel upwards and it smacked into her face, leaving a livid bruise.’
    • ‘The recoil jarred his shoulder painfully, but he ignored it as best as he could.’
    • ‘It largely reduces the strength of recoil during shooting, but its greatest usefulness is apparent during bare-hand fighting.’
    • ‘When trying to shoot out of this position, the body rocks back under recoil and the arms pivot up at the shoulders.’
    • ‘No matter how well you explain recoil or emphasize proper shooting stance, that first shot is a surprise.’
    kickback, kick
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Middle English (denoting the act of retreating): from Old French reculer ‘move back’, based on Latin culus ‘buttocks’.