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

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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 Wood stains and preservatives are less reliable than painting, but will help repel bees to some degree versus bare wood. Tim Johnson,, 30 May 2021 Any old quilt will work on dry dirt or grass, but a proper picnic blanket will repel dampness and moisture from the ground and be more durable. New York Times, 11 May 2021 Herd immunity, also known as population immunity, is a situation where a large portion of a population is able to repel an infectious disease like the coronavirus, thereby limiting the amount the disease can spread., 5 May 2021 Just like vinegar, essential oils can repel ants, mosquitoes and other insects. Angela Watson,, 3 Apr. 2021 Red Christmas tree ornaments hung on plants before the fruit starts to ripen will repel birds. Howard Garrett, Dallas News, 22 Mar. 2021 The materials repel or capture and detoxify contaminants like mercury, phosphorus and other heavy metals, permitting recovery of valuable nutrients and precious metals. Star Tribune, 21 Mar. 2021 But theme exhibitions normally repel me, shoehorning independent talents into curatorial agendas. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 22 Feb. 2021 Gallic vestiges endure, though the few fortresses on the water were built by the British to repel French attacks. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 18 Apr. 2021

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, 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

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Time Traveler for repel

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for repel

Last Updated

4 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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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 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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for repel

Nglish: Translation of repel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of repel for Arabic Speakers


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