Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb re·pel \ri-ˈpel\

Simple Definition of repel

  • : to keep (something) out or away

  • : to force (an enemy, attacker, etc.) to stop an attack and turn away

  • physics : to force (something) to move away or apart

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of repel



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to drive back :  repulse b :  to fight against :  resist

  3. 2 :  turn away, reject <repelled the insinuation>

  4. 3 a :  to drive away :  discourage <foul words and frowns must not repel a lover — Shakespeare> b :  to be incapable of adhering to, mixing with, taking up, or holding c :  to force away or apart or tend to do so by mutual action at a distance

  5. 4 :  to cause aversion in :  disgust

  6. intransitive verb
  7. :  to cause aversion



Examples of repel in a sentence

  1. a fabric that repels water

  2. Their superior forces repelled the invasion.

  3. Two positive electrical charges repel each other.

  4. Magnets can both repel and attract one another.

Origin and Etymology of repel

Middle English repellen, from Middle French repeller, from Latin repellere, from re- + pellere to drive — more at felt

First Known Use: 15th century

Rhymes with repel

band shell, barbell, Becquerel, Blackwell, bluebell, bombshell, bridewell, cadelle, cartel, chandelle, Chanel, clamshell, compel, cormel, cornel, corral, cowbell, cupel, diel, dispel, doorbell, dry cell, dry well, dumbbell, duxelles, ear shell, eggshell, excel, expel, farewell, fat cell, foretell, fuel cell, gazelle, germ cell, Glaspell, gromwell, groundswell, half shell, handbell, hard sell, hard-shell, harebell, hotel, impel, indwell, inkwell, Jarrell, jurel, Kandel, lampshell, lapel, Mandel, marcel, maxwell, Maxwell, micelle, misspell, morel, motel, nacelle, nerve cell, Nobel, noel, nouvelle, nutshell, oil well, Orel, Orwell, outsell, pall-mall, Parnell, pastel, pell-mell, pixel, pointelle, Ponselle, presell, propel, quenelle, rakehell, rappel, Ravel, rebel, refel, respell, retell, riel, rondel, Roswell, saurel, scalpel, seashell, sequel, sleigh bell, soft sell, soft-shell, solgel, speedwell, spinel, stairwell, star shell, stem cell, tooth shell, unsell, unwell, upwell, wind-bell

REPEL Defined for Kids


verb re·pel \ri-ˈpel\

Definition of repel for Students



  1. 1 :  to drive back <We tried to repel the enemy.>

  2. 2 :  to push away <Two magnets can repel each other.>

  3. 3 :  to keep out :  resist <The cloth is treated to repel water.>

  4. 4 :  2disgust <The sight repelled everyone.>

Word Root of repel

The Latin word pellere, meaning “to cause to move” or “to drive,” gives us the root pel. Words from the Latin pellere have something to do with driving or causing something to move. To propel is to drive forward. To compel is to drive someone to do something. To expel is to drive out. To repel is to drive back or away.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up repel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


less dense or relating to a select group

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of namby-pamby?

lithe insightful energetic insipid
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.