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[adj., n. ree-fleks; v. ri-fleks] /adj., n. ˈri flɛks; v. rɪˈflɛks/
Physiology. noting or pertaining to an involuntary response to a stimulus, the nerve impulse from a receptor being transmitted inward to a nerve center that in turn transmits it outward to an effector.
occurring in reaction; responsive.
cast back; reflected, as light, color, etc.
bent or turned back.
designating a radio apparatus in which the same circuit or part performs two functions.
  1. Also called reflex act. movement caused by a reflex response.
  2. Also called reflex action. the entire physiological process activating such movement.
any automatic, unthinking, often habitual behavior or response.
the reflection or image of an object, as exhibited by a mirror or the like.
a reproduction, as if in a mirror.
a copy; adaptation.
reflected light, color, etc.
Historical Linguistics. an element in a language, as a sound, that has developed from a corresponding element in an earlier form of the language:
The (ō) in “stone” is a reflex of Old English ā.
a reflex radio receiver.
a reflex camera.
verb (used with object)
to subject to a reflex process.
to bend, turn, or fold back.
to arrange in a reflex system.
Origin of reflex
1500-10; < Latin reflexus bent back, past participle of reflectere to reflect
Related forms
reflexly, adverb
reflexness, noun
multireflex, noun
semireflex, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for reflex action
Historical Examples
  • Most people know something of what is meant by reflex action.

  • reflex action hurled him back, his hand out of range of the ray.

    The Black Star Passes John W Campbell
  • And the response to them on the part of the mind is in some respects almost comparable to reflex action.

  • The dual influence crossing had to produce some kind of reflex action.

    Fruits of Culture Leo Tolstoy
  • His thought had cost him a soaking and the reflex action of his thought was strongly in evidence during the balance of our watch.

    S.O.S. Stand to! Reginald Grant
  • Nor can this be without its reflex action upon the mind of the child.

    Spirit and Music H. Ernest Hunt
  • The belief had its reflex action, doing something to calm her.

    The Pool in the Desert Sara Jeanette Duncan
  • It cannot be said that these first studies of reflex action did much for physiology.

    Experiments on Animals Stephen Paget
  • The torrent of bitter words she had poured on Elaine was the reflex action of that sudden realisation.

    Swirling Waters Max Rittenberg
  • Surely, all of that does not come under the heading of reflex action; and if it does, what of it?

    Criminal Types V. M. Masten
British Dictionary definitions for reflex action


noun (ˈriːflɛks)
  1. an immediate involuntary response, esp one that is innate, such as coughing or removal of the hand from a hot surface, evoked by a given stimulus
  2. (as modifier): a reflex action See also reflex arc
  1. a mechanical response to a particular situation, involving no conscious decision
  2. (as modifier): a reflex response
a reflection; an image produced by or as if by reflection
a speech element derived from a corresponding form in an earlier state of the language: "sorrow" is a reflex of Middle English "sorwe"
adjective (ˈriːflɛks)
(maths) (of an angle) between 180° and 360°
(prenominal) turned, reflected, or bent backwards
verb (rɪˈflɛks)
(transitive) to bend, turn, or reflect backwards
Derived Forms
reflexible, adjective
reflexibility, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin reflexus bent back, from reflectere to reflect
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for reflex action



c.1500, "reflection of light," from verb reflex meaning "refract, deflect" (late 14c.), from Late Latin reflexus "a bending back," noun use of past participle of reflectere (see reflection). Meaning "involuntary nerve stimulation" first recorded 1877, from reflex action (1833).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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reflex action in Medicine

reflex re·flex (rē'flěks')

  1. An involuntary physiological response to a stimulus.

  2. An unlearned or instinctive response to a stimulus.

  3. Something, such as light or heat, that is reflected.

  1. Being an involuntary action or response, such as a sneeze, blink, or hiccup.

  2. Bent, turned, or thrown back; reflected.

v. re·flexed, re·flex·ing, re·flex·es (rĭ-flěks')
  1. To cause to undergo a reflex process.

  2. To reflect.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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reflex action in Science
  1. An involuntary physiological response to a stimulus, as the withdrawal of a body part from burning heat.

  2. An unlearned or instinctive response to a stimulus. Also called unconditioned response. See more at classical conditioning.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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reflex action in Culture

reflex definition

An action or movement not controlled by conscious thought. A reflex may be anything from a hiccup to the involuntary response of a body part, such as the action that occurs in the knee-jerk reflex.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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