verb (used with or without object)

  1. to coil again.

verb (used without object)

  1. to draw back; start or shrink back, as in alarm, horror, or disgust.
  2. to spring or fly back, as in consequence of force of impact or the force of the discharge, as a firearm.
  3. to spring or come back; react (usually followed by on or upon): Plots frequently recoil upon the plotters.
  4. Physics. (of an atom, a nucleus, or a particle) to undergo a change in momentum as a result either of a collision with an atom, a nucleus, or a particle or of the emission of a particle.


  1. an act of recoiling.
  2. the distance through which a weapon moves backward after discharging.

verb (rɪˈkɔɪl) (intr)

  1. to jerk back, as from an impact or violent thrust
  2. (often foll by from) to draw back in fear, horror, or disgustto recoil from the sight of blood
  3. (foll by on or upon) to go wrong, esp so as to hurt the perpetrator
  4. (of a nucleus, atom, molecule, or elementary particle) to change momentum as a result of the emission of a photon or particle

noun (rɪˈkɔɪl, ˈriːkɔɪl)

    1. the backward movement of a gun when fired
    2. the distance moved
  1. the motion acquired by a particle as a result of its emission of a photon or other particle
  2. the act of recoiling

c.1300, “retreat,” from Old French recul “recoil, backward movement, retreat,” from reculer (see recoil (v.)). Meaning “back-kick of a firearm” is from 1570s.


early 13c. (transitive) “force back, drive back,” from Old French reculer “to go back, give way, recede, retreat” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *reculare, from Latin re- “back” (see re-) + culus “backside, bottom, fundament.” Meaning “shrink back, retreat” is first recorded c.1300; and that of “spring back” (as a gun) in 1520s. Related: Recoiled; recoiling.

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