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 The 2016 election also impelled her to act, to set an example for her son. Melena Ryzik, New York Times, "Evan Rachel Wood Turns Her Trauma Into Good. On ‘Westworld’ and in Life.," 4 Apr. 2018 The vocalist’s death at 49 shocked the music world and impelled the group to get behind mental health and suicide prevention campaigns. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The Top 100 Moments of the EDM Decade," 17 Dec. 2019 The conflict impelled the team to reportedly fine him $200,000 for conduct detrimental to the team. Tyler Dragon,, "Cincinnati Bengals activate cornerback Darqueze Dennard off PUP list," 17 Oct. 2019 Is intervention likely to impel more violence in the long term? Daniel Bessner, The New Republic, "The Fog of Intervention," 4 Sep. 2019 What impels her forward is the voice: free, pellucid, almost always first-person, interested not in the long view but in the here and now. Abhrajyoti Chakraborty, The New Republic, "Natalia Ginzburg’s Radical Clarity," 5 Aug. 2019 In a flash, rain poured and wind whipped at once, blowing trash onto the field and impelling a rapid response from the grounds crew. Los Angeles Times, "Dodgers power their way over the Phillies after a two-hour rain delay," 17 July 2019 The latent violence of the automobile — expressed through automotive design and marketing — allows many drivers to act on those same impulses that impelled Vanderbilt more than a century ago. Dan Albert, Vox, "Driverless cars are coming. We’ll miss the thrill of the ride.," 21 June 2019 That has impelled the BOJ to stick by its aggressive easing, an increasing source of irritation for commercial banks and insurance companies. Megumi Fujikawa, WSJ, "Bank of Japan Sticks to Ultra-Easy Money Policy, Defying Expectations," 31 July 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

6 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Impel.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 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

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).


to insert between existing elements

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