Growing up I was taught two meanings of reflex:

  1. The unconscious reaction to stimulus (n)
  2. An angle greater than 180° but less than 360° (adj)

However, I've also come across reflex used in the context of a aerofoil profile:

reflex paramotor wing

And for the shape of an archery bow:

reflex bow shape

Are these two usages related and what is the etymology of using reflex in this way? I haven't been able to find any dictionaries including this usage.

  • 3
    Reflex is a common word for things that are reflected or bent back or away, e.g. reflex cameras, reflex bows, reflex sights. reflex speakers, anti-reflex coating, etc. Reflex is from the Latin meaning "bending back" as I'm sure you know. The etymology of individual things like bows will require separate answers as to precisely how a thing acquired the name, what it is that bends back, how it differs from other things that bend or don't bend, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 27 at 14:19
  • 1
    I oppose the vote to close. The definition of "bent [backwards]" is missing from most dictionaries other than as the verb "to reflex" where it is occasionally appears as "To bend, turn, or fold back; to recurve"
    – Greybeard
    Commented Mar 28 at 9:34


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