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verb (used without object)
  1. to draw back or shrink, as from what is dangerous, difficult, or unpleasant.
  2. to shrink under pain; wince.
  3. Croquet. to let the foot slip from the ball in the act of croqueting.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to draw back or withdraw from.
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  1. an act of flinching.
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Origin of flinch1

First recorded in 1555–65; perhaps nasalized variant of dial. flitch to flit, shift one's position
Related formsflinch·er, nounflinch·ing·ly, adverb


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verb (used with object)
  1. flense.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

blanch, balk, cower, blink, recoil, cringe, swerve, crouch, escape, avoid, retire, recede, evade, elude, start, eschew, blench, withdraw, duck, shun

Examples from the Web for flinch

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • His duty lay very plain before him, and he would not flinch.

  • Not this time would I flinch from what consequences might follow.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • The perfume of violet scent was almost unbearable, but he did not flinch.

    The Avenger

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • Yet she did not flinch, nor did a single symptom of panic or fear cross her face.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • It was a painful journey downstairs, but Polly did not flinch.

British Dictionary definitions for flinch


verb (intr)
  1. to draw back suddenly, as from pain, shock, etc; wincehe flinched as the cold water struck him
  2. (often foll by from) to avoid contact (with); shy awayhe never flinched from his duty
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  1. the act or an instance of drawing back
  2. a card game in which players build sequences
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Derived Formsflincher, nounflinchingly, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Old French flenchir; related to Middle High German lenken to bend, direct


  1. a variant of flense
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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

Word Origin and History for flinch


1570s, from obsolete flecche "to bend, flinch," probably from Old French flenchir "to bend," probably from Frankish *hlankjan or some other Germanic source (cf. Middle High German linken, German lenken "to bend, turn, lead"), from PIE root *kleng- "to bend, turn" (see link (n.)). Related: Flinched; flinching. As a noun, from 1817.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper