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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

So, based on all this information on what repels humans and how disgust works, here’s what my (very personal) ranking of the most disgusting things in New York City looks like — from bottom to top. Alessandra Potenza, The Verge, "Puke, poop, and sweat: a ranking of New York City’s grossest attractions," 9 May 2018 Investigators then said Jones defended himself returning punches and repelling Ragin's attack until Ragin fell to the ground. Cameron Knight,, "Police: Airport worker insulted, threatened Adam Jones before fight," 13 July 2018 Such nontariff trade barriers run afoul of international rules, and repel foreign capital that Beijing is eager to attract. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "After Trump’s New Tariff Threat, China Seeks Strategy for Retaliation," 11 July 2018 The strands don't tangle because each strand is repelling off another in an electrostatic force. Lilly Price, USA TODAY, "Spiders use electricity to fly thousands of miles, research shows," 6 July 2018 One theme thoughtfully developed in Rooney's guide is how a healthy garden naturally repels many destructive pests. Homes & Gardens Of The Northwest Staff,, "Garden book review: 'Humane Critter Control' offers smart, natural ways to deter deer and rabbits," 3 June 2018 In others, his efforts have the potential to backfire by motivating Democrats or repelling skeptical independents and suburban Republicans. CBS News, "Trump plans to stump aggressively in midterms — but is he wanted everywhere?," 19 May 2018 Up-down quark matter would definitively rule out the doomsday scenario: It should be positively charged and repel atomic nuclei. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Weird new form of nuclear matter might lie just beyond experimenters' grasp," 15 May 2018 How can the city be attracting and repelling people at the same time? Alfred Lubrano,, "Philadelphia's population increased, but it's not all good, according to Census data," 22 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about repel

Statistics for repel

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for repel

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on repel

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


not any or not one

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!