re·​pel | \ri-ˈpel \
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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Monopoles would act familiarly, too: The same charges would repel each other, while opposite charges would attract. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 Cyberoperators enjoy levels of stealth and speed unrivaled by conventional weapons systems to prevent or repel attacks, be they on the battlefield or in cyberspace. Dave Weinstein, WSJ, "America Goes on the Cyberoffensive," 28 Aug. 2018 When one of Percy’s closest friends privately makes advances toward her, she is repelled and tells her husband. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Mary Shelley' is a deeply conventional movie about ragingly unconventional people," 25 May 2018 The idea of repelling prospective dudes terrified me. Joe Wadlington, Vox, "Halloween costumes are about dressing as someone else. I decided to go as my own fears instead.," 19 Oct. 2018 Jerrold Meinwald, who conducted pathbreaking studies of how creatures use chemicals to attract mates, repel predators, and send other messages back and forth, died on April 23 at his home in Ithaca, New York. Kenneth Chang,, "Jerrold Meinwald, 91, dies; studied creatures’ chemical signals," 16 May 2018 My style is indeed man-repelling, but Phoebe reinforced my decision to dress for myself and not to attract a man. Amanda Murray, Teen Vogue, "People Are Scrambling to Buy Old Céline After Hedi Slimane's Controversial Collection," 26 Oct. 2018 But hydrogen ions, single protons, have positive electric charges and naturally repel each other. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 These should repel each other, but the nucleus doesn’t explode because of neutrons. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "High-energy protons emitted after hooking up with neutrons," 16 Aug. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of repel

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

History and Etymology for repel

Middle English repellen, from Middle French repeller, from Latin repellere, from re- + pellere to drive — more at felt

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Statistics for repel

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for repel

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

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More Definitions for repel



English Language Learners Definition of repel

: to keep (something) out or away

: to force (an enemy, attacker, etc.) to stop an attack and turn away

physics : to force (something) to move away or apart


re·​pel | \ri-ˈpel \
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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on repel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with repel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for repel

Spanish Central: Translation of repel

Nglish: Translation of repel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of repel for Arabic Speakers

Comments on repel

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living or existing for a long time

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