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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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 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 actions have been impelled by the need to conserve scarce protective gear for health care workers. Hal Bernton, Anchorage Daily News, "With surgeries delayed, patients wait with anxiety — some in pain — as hospitals make way for coronavirus cases," 30 Mar. 2020 There’s something uncanny about a group of bookish women using Ferrante’s tetralogy—which follows the lives of Lila and Lenù, two friends growing up in Naples during the nineteen-fifties—to impel a collective inquiry. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "A New Book on Elena Ferrante Rethinks What Criticism Can Be," 6 Feb. 2020 At least some rental contracts give tenants the power to impel their landlord to install window guards against theft. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "Patreon Can't Solve Its Porn Pirate Problem," 24 Jan. 2020 The restoration of one of Salvador’s early films impels him to track down its leading man, Alberto (Asier Etxeandia). Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“Pain and Glory” Tells Autumnal Truths," 4 Oct. 2019 What on earth impelled Mr. Martins to make Romeo suddenly wrap Tybalt’s head in his cloak and stab him repeatedly in the back? Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "Review: ‘Romeo + Juliet,’ a Movielike Ballet in Need of Better Direction," 14 Feb. 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.

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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

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Impel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for impel


How to pronounce impel (audio)

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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on impel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with impel

Spanish Central: Translation of impel

Nglish: Translation of impel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impel for Arabic Speakers

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