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

Gangs, for instance, a favorite tabloid and cable-television indicator and cause of street violence, are strongly deprecated as a propellant in urban crime. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Walmart’s Announcement and Other Signs of Hope in the Gun Crisis," 5 Sep. 2019 This by itself was alarming, but not unprecedented: Liquid propellants, long preferred in many Russian missiles, are volatile and have exploded when prematurely brought into contact with oxidizing agents. Ankit Panda, The New Republic, "The Absurd Strategy Behind Russia’s Nuclear Explosion," 21 Aug. 2019 Bruno said 90% of the Vulcan's major systems, including flight software, the nose fairing, Centaur engines, propellant tanks and strap-on boosters, will have flown on the Atlas 5 before the Vulcan's maiden flight. William Harwood, CBS News, "Dream Chaser spaceplanes to launch on ULA Vulcan rocket," 14 Aug. 2019 Also headed to space for the first time is a new non-toxic green propellant developed by the the Air Force Research Laboratory. Chabeli Herrera,, "Tonight’s Falcon Heavy liftoff from Cape will be SpaceX’s ‘most difficult launch ever’," 24 June 2019 While most flocking sprays are safe to handle, some have been known to contain propellants, solvents, and other potentially harmful chemicals if ingested. Country Living Staff, Country Living, "Here's How to Flock a Christmas Tree, if You've Always Dreamed of a White Christmas," 29 Aug. 2019 According to the Russian ministry of defense, a liquid propellant rocket engine had gone awry and exploded. Ankit Panda, The New Republic, "The Absurd Strategy Behind Russia’s Nuclear Explosion," 21 Aug. 2019 First word of the explosion came from the Russian Defense Ministry, which initially said the Aug. 8 blast of a liquid-propellant rocket engine killed two people and injured six others. Vladimir Isachenkov,, "The mysterious explosion in Russia involving a ‘Skyfall’ nuclear missile that’s evoking memories of Chernobyl," 14 Aug. 2019 Russian authorities had previously said two people had been killed in the incident and that a nearby city had reported a rise in radiation levels when a liquid propellant rocket engine blew up at a testing site in the Arkhangelsk region on Thursday. NBC News, "Russian nuclear agency says five killed in accident at test site," 10 Aug. 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.

See More

First Known Use of propellant


1644, in the meaning defined above


1654, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about propellant

Statistics for propellant

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for propellant

The first known use of propellant was in 1644

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!