pro·​pel·​lant | \ prə-ˈpe-lənt How to pronounce propellant (audio) \
variants: or less commonly propellent

Definition of propellant

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: capable of propelling


variants: or less commonly propellent

Definition of propellant (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that propels: such as
a : an explosive for propelling projectiles
b : fuel plus oxidizer used by a rocket engine
c : a gas kept under pressure in a bottle or can for expelling the contents when the pressure is released

Examples of propellant in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Luigi T. De Luca, an Italian academic and a leading expert in solid propellant rockets, said in an email. Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, "A Cheaper Airbag, and Takata’s Road to a Deadly Crisis," 26 Aug. 2016

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Planetary Society hopes that if all goes according to plan, LightSail 2 will help turn solar sails into a reliable, low-cost, zero-propellant method of flying through space. Amy Thompson, Smithsonian, "LightSail 2 Launches to Space to Soar on the Power of Sunshine," 25 June 2019 Sailing goes mainstream LightSail 2 is intended to help resolve the technical problems and turn light sails into a reliable, low-cost, zero-propellant way of getting around in space. NBC News, "Spacecraft that sail on sunshine could be the next big thing in spaceflight," 3 June 2019 The four-stage solid propellant rocket carried seven satellites into orbit, including one for measuring sea surface winds for typhoon forecasting. Echo Huang, Quartz, "China’s carmakers are now sponsoring rocket launches," 9 June 2019 By squeezing more speed out of less propellant, ion propulsion goes a long way toward taming the rocket equation. Corey S. Powell, Discover Magazine, "These New Technologies Could Make Interstellar Travel Real," 13 Mar. 2019 That’s because the Orion was designed to maneuver much farther away from the moon, where its gravitational pull is weaker and requires less propellant to counteract. Anatoly Zak, Popular Mechanics, "NASA: Lunar 'Gateway' Is Still Our Best Bet for Putting Boots on the Moon," 1 Apr. 2019 Finally, the extreme heat of a laser could ignite any remaining rocket motor propellant or the explosive warhead. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "U.S. Fighter Jets Could Soon Be Armed With Lasers," 6 May 2019 And recently, Boeing experienced a propellant leak during a test that pushed back development of its Starliner. Loren Grush, The Verge, "NASA will review workplace safety at SpaceX and Boeing because Elon Musk smoked marijuana," 20 Nov. 2018 Compared to the Orion spacecraft’s predecessor, the Apollo, even an untrained eye can spot that Orion’s propellant-carrying trunk is smaller than the service module on the Apollo spacecraft, which carried the world’s first astronauts to the moon. Anatoly Zak, Popular Mechanics, "NASA: Lunar 'Gateway' Is Still Our Best Bet for Putting Boots on the Moon," 1 Apr. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'propellant.' 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 propellant


1644, in the meaning defined above


1654, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of propellant was in 1644

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More Definitions for propellant



English Language Learners Definition of propellant

: a gas under pressure in a can that is used to spray out the contents when the pressure is released
: a fuel or an explosive substance that is used to make something (such as a rocket) go forward

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More from Merriam-Webster on propellant

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with propellant

Spanish Central: Translation of propellant

Nglish: Translation of propellant for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about propellant

Comments on propellant

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to complain fretfully

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