A recurve bow is a bow that, in contrast to the simple bow longbow, has ends that curve away from the archer when the bow is held in shooting position. An unstrung recurve bow can have a confusing shape and many north American aboriginal (Indian) weapons were incorrectly strung and destroyed when attempts were made to fire them.

The recurve shape in effect can reduce loading at full draw (let-off) and will impart more energy to the arrow than a longbow of similar top draw weight. A recurve will permit a shorter bow than the simple bow for a given arrow energy and this form was preferred by archers who were forced into environments where long weapons could be cumbersome, brush and forest, on horseback, etc.