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

  • intransitive v. To spring back, as upon firing.
  • intransitive v. To shrink back, as in fear or repugnance.
  • intransitive v. To fall back; return: "Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent” ( Arthur Conan Doyle).
  • n. The backward action of a firearm upon firing.
  • n. The act or state of recoiling; reaction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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.
  • v. To pull back, especially in disgust, horror or astonishment.
  • v. To retire, withdraw.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A starting or falling back; a rebound; a shrinking.
  • n. The state or condition of having recoiled.
  • n. Specifically, the reaction or rebounding of a firearm when discharged.
  • intransitive v. To start, roll, bound, spring, or fall back; to take a reverse motion; to be driven or forced backward; to return.
  • intransitive v. To draw back, as from anything repugnant, distressing, alarming, or the like; to shrink.
  • intransitive v. To turn or go back; to withdraw one's self; to retire.
  • transitive v. To draw or go back.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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.
  • n. A drawing back; retreat.
  • n. A backward movement; a rebound: literally or figuratively.
  • n. Specifically, the rebound or resilience of a firearm or a piece of ordnance when discharged.

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

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


Middle English recoilen, from Old French reculer : re-, re- + cul, buttocks (from Latin cūlus; see (s)keu- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French reculer. (Wiktionary)



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