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 Campos is now chief of staff to polarizing District Attorney Chesa Boudin, which could attract some voters and repel others. Mallory Moench, San Francisco Chronicle, 29 Sep. 2021 Started in 2009 in the Portland metro region, the camp is an opportunity for a new generation of potential firefighters to throw ladders, repel from buildings and practice extinguishing fires. NBC News, 24 Sep. 2021 More practically, knowing how to entice and repel these dolphins suggests a new tool for their conservation. Max G. Levy, Wired, 9 Sep. 2021 The United States has spent more than $88 billion on training and equipping Afghanistan’s security forces, but its troops still struggle to hold territory and repel Taliban assaults unassisted. Washington Post, 15 Apr. 2021 Electrons repel one another, and so cooling would decrease their energy and freeze them into a lattice just as water turns to ice. Quanta Magazine, 12 Aug. 2021 These materials either repel cat hair naturally or are easy to brush or shake to remove pet hair. Michael Pollick,, 17 Mar. 2021 For decades, manufacturers used PFASs to create materials that repel water and stains and make fire-fighting products. Xiaozhi Lim, Science | AAAS, 27 Aug. 2021 Bounce Mega Sheets have three time the static-zapping ingredients to remove pet and lint hair in the dryer and help repel it during wear. Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, 17 Aug. 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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Last Updated

2 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Repel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 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
: 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

Nglish: Translation of repel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of repel for Arabic Speakers


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