[ dih-flek-shuhn ]
/ dɪˈflɛk ʃən /
Save This Word!

the act or state of deflecting or the state of being deflected.
amount of deviation.
the deviation of the indicator of an instrument from the position taken as zero.
Military. the angle formed by the line of sight to the target and the line of sight to the point at which a gun is aimed so as to strike the target.
Electronics. (in a cathode-ray tube) the bending by a magnetic field of the beam of electrons leaving the electron gun.
Test how much you really know about regular and irregular plural nouns with this quiz.
Question 1 of 9
Which of the following nouns has an irregular plural form?
Also British, de·flex·ion .

Origin of deflection

1595–1605; <Late Latin dēflexiōn- (stem of dēflexiō), equivalent to Latin dēflex(us) (past participle of dēflectere;see deflect) + -iōn--ion


non·de·flec·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does deflection mean?

Deflection is the act of deflecting—redirecting something or causing it to move in a direction that’s different from the course it had been on.

It can also refer to an instance of deflecting, as in Despite a deflection by the goalie, the ball still rolled into the goal. 

The verb deflect can also be used in a passive way meaning for something to have its course changed, and deflection can also refer to an instance of this.

Deflection can also be used in a figurative way referring to the act or an instance of doing something to avoid questioning or scrutiny, as in When asked about the scandal, the senator offered only deflection, giving a vague answer and changing the subject. 

Deflection can also be used in more specific ways in scientific and technical contexts.

Example: The meteor is headed straight for Earth—our only chance is to cause a deflection using the space laser!

Where does deflection come from?

The first records of the word deflection come from around 1600. It ultimately comes from the Latin dēflectere, “to bend down” or “to turn aside,” from flectere, “to bend” or “to turn” (the same root is used in the words reflect and reflection). The prefix de- is used to indicate a reversal or undoing.

The literal sense of deflection is often used in the description of sports action—players cause deflections on balls and pucks to prevent them from entering the goal, the hoop, or another player’s hands. Such deflections are often slight—the ball or puck changes direction only slightly. But deflecting something can sometimes cause it to move in the complete opposite direction, as in The deflection by the goalie caused the ball to bounce right back at the striker, who then easily kicked it in the goal. 

When you engage in deflection of questions, you dodge or evade them, often by changing the subject. Politicians are especially known for using deflection to avoid addressing sensitive issues. This figurative sense of deflection is often used in a way that implies that such actions are dishonest.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to deflection?

What are some synonyms for deflection?

What are some words that share a root or word element with deflection



What are some words that often get used in discussing deflection?


How is deflection used in real life?

Deflection is commonly used in both literal and figurative ways. When used figuratively, it’s usually negative.



Try using deflection!

Which of the following scenarios includes an example of deflection?

A. John shoots the basketball, but Jane blocks it before it can reach the rim.
B. A rock falls from a dump truck and bounces off a car’s windshield.
C. Justin’s dad asks him if he passed his math test, and Justin responds by asking what’s for dinner.
D. All of the above.

How to use deflection in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for deflection



/ (dɪˈflɛkʃən) /

the act of deflecting or the state of being deflected
the amount of deviation
the change in direction of a light beam as it crosses a boundary between two media with different refractive indexes
a deviation of the indicator of a measuring instrument from its zero position
the movement of a structure or structural member when subjected to a load

Derived forms of deflection

deflective, adjective
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

Medical definitions for deflection

[ dĭ-flĕkshən ]

A turning aside or deviation.
The deviation of an indicator in a measuring instrument, such as an electrocardiograph, from zero or from its normal position.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.