1. (of a verb) taking a subject and object with identical referents, as shave in I shave myself.
  2. (of a pronoun) used as an object to refer to the subject of a verb, as myself in I shave myself.
reflex; responsive.
able to reflect; reflective.
  1. noting a relation in which each element is in relation to itself, as the relation “less than or equal to.”Compare antireflexive.
  2. (of a vector space) having the property that the dual space of the dual space of the given vector space equals the given vector space.


Grammar. a reflexive verb or pronoun.

Origin of reflexive

First recorded in 1580–90, reflexive is from the Medieval Latin word reflexīvus turned back, reflected. See reflex, -ive
Related formsre·flex·ive·ly, adverbre·flex·ive·ness, re·flex·iv·i·ty [ree-flek-siv-i-tee] /ˌri flɛkˈsɪv ɪ ti/, nounsem·i·re·flex·ive, adjectivesem·i·re·flex·ive·ly, adverbsem·i·re·flex·ive·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for reflexive

Contemporary Examples of reflexive

Historical Examples of reflexive

  • And reflexive: con him land geare, knows the land well, 2063; pl.



  • The termination uba is that of the third person of reflexive verbs.

  • Farrell could not have said, later, whether his next move was planned or reflexive.

    Control Group

    Roger Dee

  • The compound personal pronouns have two uses, reflexive and emphatic.

    Plain English

    Marian Wharton

  • You can readily distinguish between the reflexive and the emphatic use.

    Plain English

    Marian Wharton

British Dictionary definitions for reflexive



denoting a class of pronouns that refer back to the subject of a sentence or clause. Thus, in the sentence that man thinks a great deal of himself, the pronoun himself is reflexive
denoting a verb used transitively with the reflexive pronoun as its direct object, as the French se lever "to get up" (literally "to raise oneself") or English to dress oneself
physiol of or relating to a reflex
logic maths (of a relation) holding between any member of its domain and itself"… is a member of the same family as …" is reflexive Compare irreflexive, nonreflexive


a reflexive pronoun or verb
Derived Formsreflexively, adverbreflexiveness or reflexivity (ˌriːflɛkˈsɪvɪtɪ), noun
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 reflexive

1580s, "reflective, capable of bending or turning back," from Medieval Latin reflexivus, from Late Latin reflexus (see reflect). Meaning "of the nature of a reflex" is from 1839 (implied in reflexively). Grammatical sense from 1837. Related: Reflexiveness; reflexivity.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

reflexive in Science



Of or relating to a mathematical or logical relation such that, for any given element, that element has the given relation to itself. Equality in mathematics is a reflexive relation, since a = a for all a, whereas the relation of being 'less than' is not, since it is not true that a < a for any a.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.