from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To spring back, as upon firing.
  • intransitive verb To shrink back, as in fear or repugnance.
  • intransitive verb To fall back; return.
  • noun The backward action of a firearm upon firing.
  • noun The act or state of recoiling; reaction.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To draw back; go back; retreat; take a sudden backward motion after an advance.
  • To start or draw back, as from anything repulsive, distressing, alarming, or the like; shrink.
  • To fall, rush, start, bound, or roll back, as in consequence of resistance which cannot be overcome by the force impressed; return after a certain strain or impetus: literally or figuratively.
  • To fall off; degenerate.
  • To drive back.
  • To coil again.
  • noun A drawing back; retreat.
  • noun A backward movement; a rebound: literally or figuratively.
  • noun Specifically, the rebound or resilience of a firearm or a piece of ordnance when discharged.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To draw or go back.
  • noun A starting or falling back; a rebound; a shrinking.
  • noun The state or condition of having recoiled.
  • noun Specifically, the reaction or rebounding of a firearm when discharged.
  • noun (Gunnery) an instrument for measuring the force of the recoil of a firearm.
  • noun See the Note under Escapement.
  • intransitive verb To start, roll, bound, spring, or fall back; to take a reverse motion; to be driven or forced backward; to return.
  • intransitive verb To draw back, as from anything repugnant, distressing, alarming, or the like; to shrink.
  • intransitive verb obsolete To turn or go back; to withdraw one's self; to retire.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun firearms The amount of energy transmitted back to the shooter from a firearm which has fired. Recoil is a function of the weight of the weapon, the weight of the projectile, and the speed at which it leaves the muzzle.
  • verb To pull back, especially in disgust, horror or astonishment.
  • verb obsolete, intransitive To retire, withdraw.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb come back to the originator of an action with an undesired effect
  • verb spring back; spring away from an impact
  • verb spring back, as from a forceful thrust
  • noun the backward jerk of a gun when it is fired
  • verb draw back, as with fear or pain
  • noun a movement back from an impact


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English recoilen, from Old French reculer : re-, re- + cul, buttocks (from Latin cūlus; see (s)keu- in Indo-European roots).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French reculer.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word recoil.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.