pro·pul·sion | \prə-ˈpəl-shən \

Definition of propulsion 

1 : the action or process of propelling

2 : something that propels

Examples of propulsion in a Sentence

Sailboats use wind as their source of propulsion.

Recent Examples on the Web

Hadfield tentatively suggested that ion propulsion, nuclear power, or even the manipulation of gravity might be safer. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "This Retired Astronaut Says SpaceX and NASA Rockets 'Will Never Go to Mars'," 17 June 2018 And in this performance there was no missing Bernstein’s love of jazz syncopation and rhythmic propulsion. Howard Reich,, "CSO at Ravinia review: Marin Alsop poetically launches Bernstein tribute," 13 July 2018 Workers determined that the issue with the Woods Hole was a malfunctioning device in the propulsion control system, the authority said. Jeremy C. Fox,, "Steamship Authority to test Nantucket ferry after trips canceled for mechanical issues," 11 July 2018 In another mishap, the wrong solvent was used to clean spacecraft propulsion valves. Marcia Dunn,, "More delay, cost for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope," 28 June 2018 After three years of fine-tuning the vehicle, which also included adding a smoke machine to the propulsion engine replicas in the rear, Mr. Elbroody was eager to start getting some return on his investment. Kaya Laterman, New York Times, "Monetizing the Space Shuttle Cafe," 28 June 2018 There were lots of problems—delicate propulsion valves damaged by the wrong cleaning solvent, loose screws (70 of them!) that came off during a shake test—that have cost $600 million and an 18-month delay. Eric Niiler, WIRED, "Delays, Rising Costs Plague NASA's James Webb Space Telescope," 27 June 2018 Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Navy pursues new long-range, stealthy and precise Mk 48 heavyweight attack torpedo," 25 June 2018 But his interest in Bezos' group lay in his passion for alternative propulsion ideas—many of which would find their way into Seveneves in 2015. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "How Neal Stephenson Got Book Ideas by Moonlighting at Blue Origin," 19 June 2018

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

1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for propulsion

Latin propellere to propel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about propulsion

Share propulsion

Statistics for propulsion

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for propulsion

The first known use of propulsion was in 1627

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for propulsion



English Language Learners Definition of propulsion

: the force that moves something forward : the force that propels something


pro·pul·sion | \prə-ˈpəl-shən \

Kids Definition of propulsion

1 : the act or process of propelling

2 : the force that moves something forward

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on propulsion

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


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!