- knee-jerkis a popularized technicality taken from the physical meaning ‘a sudden involuntary kick caused by a blow on the tendon just below the knee when the leg is hanging loose’. It is now popular among politicians, broadcasters, etc., especially in the phrase knee-jerk reaction, as an adjective meaning ‘instant and barely considered’:
• The [motor] industry's…knee-jerk support for road construction and its opposition to tighter air pollution standards have not endeared it to the public —Times, 1991
• The Braer disaster produced a knee-jerk reaction among many hoping to improve safety standards at sea —East Anglian, 1993
• That is what's so damning about the knee-jerk opposition of so many anti-war liberals, it's based in animus, not logic —weblog, AmE 2003.
Modern English usage. 2014.
Look at other dictionaries:
Knee jerk — (Physiol.) A jerk or forward kick of the lower part of the leg produced by a blow or sudden strain upon the patellar tendon of the knee, which causes a sudden contraction of the quadriceps muscle; the patellar reflex. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
knee-jerk — adj [only before noun] a knee jerk reaction, answer etc is what you feel or say about a situation from habit, without thinking about it = ↑automatic ▪ A victim s knee jerk reaction to the crime is often revenge … Dictionary of contemporary English
knee-jerk — knee ,jerk adjective only before noun a knee jerk reaction is immediate and not carefully considered: Calling for longer prison sentences is just a knee jerk reaction to a rise in crime … Usage of the words and phrases in modern English
Knee jerk — Knee jerk, n. emotional and predictable; of certain people and their reactions to events. [PJC] … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
knee-jerk — knee′ jerk adj. cvb Informal. reacting in an automatic, habitual manner; unthinking: a knee jerk liberal[/ex] • Etymology: 1895–1900 … From formal English to slang
knee-jerk — ☆ knee jerk [nē′jʉrk΄ ] adj. [< KNEE JERK] Informal designating, characterized by, or reacting with an automatic, predictable response … English World dictionary
knee-jerk — ► NOUN ▪ an involuntary reflex kick caused by a blow on the tendon just below the knee. ► ADJECTIVE ▪ automatic and unthinking: a kneejerk reaction … English terms dictionary
knee-jerk — patellar reflex, neurological phenomenon discovered and named 1876; the figurative use appeared soon after the phrase was coined … Etymology dictionary
knee jerk — knee′ jerk n. phl a reflex extension of the leg resulting from a sharp tap on the patellar tendon • Etymology: 1875–80 … From formal English to slang
knee jerk — n. PATELLAR REFLEX … English World dictionary