repel

verb

re·​pel ri-ˈpel How to pronounce repel (audio)
repelled; repelling

transitive verb

1
a
: to drive back : repulse
b
: to fight against : resist
2
: turn away, reject
repelled the insinuation
3
a
: to drive away : discourage
foul words and frowns must not repel a loverWilliam Shakespeare
b
: to be incapable of adhering to, mixing with, taking up, or holding
c
: to force away or apart or tend to do so by mutual action at a distance
4
: to cause aversion in : disgust

intransitive verb

: to cause aversion
repeller noun

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When to Use Repel

Since re- can mean not just "again" but also "back", repel means "drive back". Repel has two common adjective forms; thus, a repellent or repulsive odor may drive us into the other room. Its main noun form is repulsion. Magnets exhibit both attraction and repulsion, and the goal of an armed defense is the repulsion of an enemy; but we generally use repulsion to mean "strong dislike". In recent years, repulse has been increasingly used as a synonym for repel ("That guy repulses me").

Examples of repel in a Sentence

a fabric that repels water Their superior forces repelled the invasion. Two positive electrical charges repel each other. Magnets can both repel and attract one another.
Recent Examples on the Web Last year, Zelensky opened the Munich Security Conference with an impassioned video address pleading for faster weapons to repel Russian forces. Maria Kostenko and Manveena Suri, CNN, 17 Feb. 2024 Dealing with the mental health impacts of the invasion will be absolutely vital to keep society resilient, functioning, and committed enough to repel the invaders. Peter Guest, WIRED, 16 Feb. 2024 The Kremlin leader regularly criticizes the US for its support of Ukraine’s campaign to repel Moscow’s invasion, among other issues. Bloomberg, Fortune, 15 Feb. 2024 Texas’ executive has to assume physical control of the border and repel the invasion. Harrison Mantas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 15 Feb. 2024 Ukraine isn’t asking for manpower, just the means to fully repel an invasion that has captured nearly 20% of its land. TIME, 13 Feb. 2024 American officials have said that the inability to come to terms on a new aid package is endangering Ukraine's efforts to repel the nearly two-year Russian invasion. Aamer Madhani, arkansasonline.com, 10 Feb. 2024 Most polyester tents are also covered in a polyurethane coating, which helps repel water but can become damaged if packed too tightly for an extended period of time. Shaun Goodwin, Idaho Statesman, 31 Jan. 2024 Two all-female tank crews, once the butt of sexist jokes, hurtled through the desert that morning to help repel waves of armed infiltrators from Gaza. Isabel Kershner Avishag Shaar-Yashuv, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'repel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English repellen, borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French repeller, borrowed from Latin repellere "to push away, drive back, fend off," from re- re- + pellere "to beat against, push, strike, rouse" — more at pulse entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of repel was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near repel

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repel. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

repel

verb
re·​pel ri-ˈpel How to pronounce repel (audio)
repelled; repelling
1
a
: to drive back
repel the enemy
b
: to fight against : resist
2
: to refuse to accept : reject
repel a suggestion
3
a
: to be incapable of sticking to, mixing with, taking up, or holding
a fabric that repels water
b
: to force away or apart or tend to do so by mutual action at a distance
two like electrical charges repel each other
4
: disgust
a sight that repelled everyone
repeller noun

More from Merriam-Webster on repel

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