im·​pel | \ im-ˈpel How to pronounce impel (audio) \
impelled; impelling

Definition of impel

transitive verb

1 : to urge or drive forward or on by or as if by the exertion of strong moral pressure : force felt impelled to correct the misconception
2 : to impart motion to : propel

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Synonyms for impel


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Choose the Right Synonym for impel

move, actuate, drive, impel mean to set or keep in motion. move is very general and implies no more than the fact of changing position. moved the furniture actuate stresses transmission of power so as to work or set in motion. turbines actuated by waterpower drive implies imparting forward and continuous motion and often stresses the effect rather than the impetus. a ship driven aground by hurricane winds impel is usually figurative and suggests a great motivating impetus. a candidate impelled by ambition

Impel vs Compel

Impel is very similar in meaning to compel, and often a perfect synonym, though it tends to suggest even more strongly an inner drive to do something and a greater urgency to act, especially for moral reasons. But when impel takes its noun and adjective forms, it changes slightly. So an impulse—such as "impulse buying", when you suddenly see something cool and know you've got to have it—often isn't based on anything very serious. And impulsive behavior in general, such as blurting out something stupid on the spur of the moment, is the kind of thing you're supposed to get over when you grow up.

Examples of impel in a Sentence

His interest in the American Civil War impelled him to make repeated visits to Gettysburg. She felt impelled to give a speech after the performance.
Recent Examples on the Web But even that predicament didn’t impel Tehran to abandon its essential nuclear assets. Ray Takeyh, WSJ, "The Shah, the Mullahs and Iran’s Longstanding Nuclear Ambitions," 10 Dec. 2020 Coping with scarcity in space might impel settlers to reconsider some of the basic tentpoles of Western society. Clive Thompson, The New Republic, "Monetizing the Final Frontier," 3 Dec. 2020 The mystery of the experience—the idea of bringing to life another human being, the possibility of exploring a new realm of human relationship—these are the forces which impel many women to conceive, no matter how full their lives may already be. Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, Harper's Magazine, "A Perfect Woman," 24 Nov. 2020 What would impel them to fly down our Egress Spout? George Saunders, The New Yorker, "Ghoul," 2 Nov. 2020 Persistent large-scale protests, however peaceful, could impel Trump to impose something close to martial law in advance of the election. Jonathan Stevenson, The New York Review of Books, "Trump’s Praetorian Guard," 24 Sep. 2020 On Thursday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to impel American manufacturers to speed up production of masks and other equipment needed to fight the coronavirus. NBC News, "Police get creative to stay safe and keep order as coronavirus spreads," 28 Mar. 2020 Arid grassland and barren ice-age landscape presented the critical survival challenges that transformed our ancestors, impelling them to control fire and invent new technologies, for example. Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, "Fifty Things We’ve Learned About the Earth Since the First Earth Day," 22 Apr. 2020 This interference would threaten to disable the benefits of deploying V2X’s lifesaving technology, and could impel some vehicle manufacturers that had previously committed to deploying V2X technology on the radio spectrum to pull back. Michael Moskowitz, Fortune, "Connected vehicles will make our roads safer—but only with regulators’ help," 7 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of impel

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for impel

Middle English impellen, from Latin impellere, from in- + pellere to drive — more at felt

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Time Traveler for impel

Time Traveler

The first known use of impel was in the 15th century

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Statistics for impel

Cite this Entry

“Impel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for impel



English Language Learners Definition of impel

: to cause (someone) to feel a strong need or desire to do something


im·​pel | \ im-ˈpel How to pronounce impel (audio) \
impelled; impelling

Kids Definition of impel

: to urge or force into action I felt impelled to speak up.

More from Merriam-Webster on impel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impel

Nglish: Translation of impel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impel for Arabic Speakers

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