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 Nick bursts in with a crazy idea: using magnetic fields to reverse the polarities and have the realms repel each other. Jessica Goldstein, Vulture, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Recap: The Vanishing Half," 1 Jan. 2021 After encountering more than 50 polar bears in his journeys, Ousland has developed a suite of strategies to repel them. Adventure, "The untold story of the boldest polar expedition of modern times," 23 Dec. 2020 The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. New York Times, "E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece," 26 Nov. 2020 Now, a $200 million political campaign has turned the state into a legal fortress for the same companies, one that could help them repel threats from Washington and elsewhere. Josh Eidelson,, "Election Day Gave Uber and Lyft a Whole New Road Map," 8 Nov. 2020 Well, the very low frequency (VLF) waves are exactly right to cancel out and repel the radiative advances of the Van Allen Belts as a matter of total coincidence. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Whoops, Humans Made a Space Barrier Around Earth," 16 Dec. 2020 FireEye has released a trove of signatures and other countermeasures that customers can use to detect and repel the attacks in the event that the tools are used. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Premiere security firm FireEye says it was breached by nation-state hackers," 8 Dec. 2020 The researchers also documented that the feces repel a species known as Vespa soror, commonly called giant hornets. Douglas Main, Animals, "Honeybees found using tools, in a first—to repel giant hornet attacks," 9 Dec. 2020 Now available in interior furnishings, these fabrics repel stains and can hold up to rambunctious kids as well as a meeting of the board of directors. Richard A. Marini,, "7 home trends for 2021, from Zoom rooms to electric car chargers, as chosen by San Antonio interior designers," 5 Nov. 2020

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

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for repel


How to pronounce repel (audio)

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.

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Comments on repel

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