early 13c. (transitive) "force back, drive back," from Old French reculer "to go back, give way, recede, retreat" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *reculare, from Latin re- "back" (see re-) + culus "backside, bottom, fundament" (see tutu). Meaning "shrink back, retreat" is first recorded c. 1300; and that of "spring back" (as a gun) in 1520s. Related: Recoiled; recoiling.