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 Water-resistant fabrics only repel water while water-proof fabric provides a complete water barrier. Kaylei Fear, Better Homes & Gardens, 4 May 2022 Those negative and positive electrons repel each other, leaving your hair sticking out all over the place and difficult to style. Catharine Malzahn, Good Housekeeping, 22 Apr. 2022 Whether Avdiivka and towns like it in the Donbas can repel the Russian forces will determine whether Moscow can claim a narrower victory after being soundly defeated in the north. New York Times, 20 Apr. 2022 So far, Western nations have mainly sent anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine that have been effective in helping to repel the Russian advance. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 7 Apr. 2022 Ukraine can’t repel the invasion without NATO’s help. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 15 Mar. 2022 Giant honeybees nesting on open combs repel predatory wasps by forming spiral waves that spread through the swarm within milliseconds. Vanessa Gregory, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Feb. 2022 Unlike dental floss, these handy gadgets literally repel food and bacteria from the crevices of your teeth using water pressure. Emily Belfiore,, 29 Sep. 2021 Newman understands how kleptocracy and oligarchic excess — both in Russia and in the West — repel and attract us in 2022. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, 27 Apr. 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

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Time Traveler for repel

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

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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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


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