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

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 For months, the countries have introduced tough new measure after tough new measure—at times, within hours of one another—to impel citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, or face the consequences. Vivienne Walt, Fortune, 6 Jan. 2022 Of course, the high-profile role of public officials should impel them to be sticklers about following their own rules. Rich Lowry, National Review, 3 Aug. 2021 Symptoms include severe mood swings and deep despondency as well as impulses that can impel a mother to harm herself or her child. Los Angeles Times, 2 July 2021 David Sedaris’ essays impel me to read aloud and laugh communally – at the beach, on a road trip, and sometimes at the dinner table. Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 June 2021 The purpose of this verbal sleight of hand is to humanize trees, and thereby impel the reader to extend greater care to them. Robert Moor, The New Yorker, 10 June 2021 But even that predicament didn’t impel Tehran to abandon its essential nuclear assets. Ray Takeyh, WSJ, 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, 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, 24 Nov. 2020 See More

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.

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Impel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for impel


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

Nglish: Translation of impel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impel for Arabic Speakers


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