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From Old French reculer.



recoil (countable and uncountable, plural recoils)

  1. A starting or falling back; a rebound; a shrinking.
    the recoil of nature, or of the blood
  2. The state or condition of having recoiled.
  3. (firearms) The 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.
  4. An escapement in which, after each beat, the scape-wheel recoils slightly.




recoil (third-person singular simple present recoils, present participle recoiling, simple past and past participle recoiled)

  1. (intransitive) To pull back, especially in disgust, horror or astonishment. [from 16th c.]
    He recoiled in disgust when he saw the mess.
  2. (intransitive, now rare) To retreat before an opponent. [from 14th c.]
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, V.11:
      that rude rout [] forced them, how ever strong and stout / They were, as well approv'd in many a doubt, / Backe to recule []
  3. (obsolete, intransitive) To retire, withdraw. [15th-18th c.]
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, I.x:
      Ye both forwearied be: therefore a whyle / Iread you rest, and to your bowres recoyle.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      Evil on itself shall back recoil.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Thomas De Quincey
      The solemnity of her demeanor made it impossible [] that we should recoil into our ordinary spirits.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  4. (of a firearm) To kick back when fired