I. intransitive verb Etymology: Middle English reculen, recoilen, from Anglo-French reculer, recuiler, from re- + cul backside — more at culet Date: 14th century 1. a. to fall back under pressure b. to shrink back physically or emotionally 2. to spring back to or as if to a starting point ; rebound 3. obsolete degenerate Synonyms: recoil, shrink, flinch, wince, blench, quail mean to draw back in fear or distaste. recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust <
recoiled at the suggestion of stealing
. shrink suggests an instinctive recoil through sensitiveness, scrupulousness, or cowardice <
shrank from the unpleasant truth
. flinch implies a failure to endure pain or face something dangerous or frightening with resolution <
faced her accusers without flinching
. wince suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction (as a start or recoiling) <
winced in pain
. blench implies fainthearted flinching <
stood their ground without blenching
. quail suggests shrinking and cowering in fear <
quailed before the apparition
. II. noun Date: 14th century 1. the act or action of recoiling; especially the kickback of a gun upon firing 2. reaction <
the recoil from the rigors of Calvinism — Edmund Wilson

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.


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  • Recoil — Re*coil (r[ e]*koil ), v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Recoiled} (r[ e]*koild ); p. pr. & vb. n. {Recoiling}.] [OE. recoilen, F. reculer, fr. L. pref. re re + culus the fundament. The English word was perhaps influenced in form by accoil.] [1913 Webster] 1 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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