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

Definition of repel

transitive verb

1a : to drive back : repulse
b : to fight against : resist
2 : turn away, reject repelled the insinuation
3a : to drive away : discourage foul words and frowns must not repel a lover— William 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

Other Words from repel

repeller noun

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 Ukraine needs up to 300 rocket systems and powerful artillery to repel Russian attacks. Katya Soldak, Forbes, 10 June 2022 The Azovstal steel plant is facing heavy shelling, as Ukraine’s troops have entrenched themselves there, using it as a fortification to try and repel Russian attacks., 19 Apr. 2022 Without sufficient fuel, however, the Ukrainians will be seriously constrained in their ability to cut off and repel Russian attacks. Daniel L. Davis, CNN, 14 Apr. 2022 Whereas Finland had to fight bloody wars to establish its independence a century ago and to repel a Soviet invasion in 1939 and 1940, Sweden has been at peace. Sune Engel Rasmussen, WSJ, 22 May 2022 Ukraine's ongoing fight to repel a Russian invasion has so far received bipartisan congressional support. Candy Woodall, USA TODAY, 25 Apr. 2022 Since the war began, some 400,000 Ukrainians who had been living abroad have returned home to fight, according to reports: to repel the invasion. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 4 Apr. 2022 The funds would cover weapons as well as military services, education and training as Ukrainians seek to repel a Russian invasion. NBC News, 12 Mar. 2022 Faced with an existential threat, Ukraine’s government and its people are working together to repel the Russian invasion. Aryn Baker, Time, 6 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'repel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of repel

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

History and Etymology for repel

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

Learn More About repel

Time Traveler for repel

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near repel




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for repel

Last Updated

3 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for repel


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

Kids Definition of repel

1 : to drive back We tried to repel the enemy.
2 : to push away Two magnets can repel each other.
3 : to keep out : resist The cloth is treated to repel water.
4 : disgust entry 2 The sight repelled everyone.

More from Merriam-Webster on repel

Nglish: Translation of repel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of repel for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!