im·pel | \im-ˈpel \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Cars driving by impelled the police to end the standoff violently. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "Video shows police punching a Harvard student after he was found naked in the street," 16 Apr. 2018 In contrast, the scientific world is impelled to explore the technical possibilities of its achievements, and the technological world is preoccupied with commercial vistas of fabulous scale. Henry A. Kissinger, The Atlantic, "How the Enlightenment Ends," 15 May 2018 With the tax cut stimulating an economy that already has low unemployment, the Fed could be impelled to move more forcefully to fend off rising inflation. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, "Why a Bigger Dose of Market Panic Could Help," 30 Mar. 2018 Teachers are asked to fork over more of their paychecks to keep their health coverage, even as budget cuts impel them to use their own money for classroom supplies and to crowdsource money to buy computers. Emmarie Huetteman, USA TODAY, "Unwieldy health costs often stand between teachers and higher pay," 13 June 2018 This is noteworthy since politicians from states without income taxes complain that Quill could impel them to pass one to raise revenue. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The GOP’s Internet Tax," 15 Mar. 2018 According to the Times story, McCabe believed that Rosenstein may have been providing a cover story for Trump, and that Comey’s firing was in fact impelled by the Russia investigation. Nash Jenkins, Time, "President Trump Says He Didn't Fire James Comey Because of Russia. He Said Something Different Before," 31 May 2018 As a sample of one, Davis couldn’t clinch the case, of course, but being a woman impelled her to prove herself on the trail. Paul Bisceglio, The Atlantic, "The Wisdom of Running a 2,189-Mile Marathon," 13 May 2018 This contributes to the lawlessness and violence that impel people to flee the region and go to the United States. The Economist, "The threat to Central America’s prosecutors," 10 May 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about impel

Dictionary Entries near impel








Statistics for impel

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for impel

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \
impelled; impelling

Kids Definition of impel

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on impel

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


one that holds something together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!