- to give a slight involuntary grimace or shrinking movement in anticipation of pain or distress
recoil implying a start or movement away out of shock, fear, or disgust
He recoiled at the suggestion of stealing.
shrink suggesting an instinctive recoil (sensitiveness, scrupulousness, cowardice)
She shrank from the unpleasant truth.
flinch implying a failure of resolve to endure pain or face danger or fright
She faced her accusers without flinching.
blench implying fainthearted flinching
They stood their ground without blenching.
quail suggesting shrinking and cowering in fear
The young prisoner quailed before the executioner.
I winced upon witnessing the new Mass for the first time. When you wince, you know that something is wrong but not necessarily how or why.