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From Middle English impellen, borrowed from Latin impellō.



impel (third-person singular simple present impels, present participle impelling, simple past and past participle impelled)

  1. (transitive) To urge a person; to press on; to incite to action or motion via intrinsic motivation.
    Antonym: (to compel or drive extrinsically) propel
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter II, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      She was a fat, round little woman, richly apparelled in velvet and lace, [] ; and the way she laughed, cackling like a hen, the way she talked to the waiters and the maid, []—all these unexpected phenomena impelled one to hysterical mirth, and made one class her with such immortally ludicrous types as Ally Sloper, the Widow Twankey, or Miss Moucher.
    • 1976 August 28, Michael Shernoff, “No 'Rotting Closet'”, in Gay Community News, volume 4, number 9, page 5:
      I feel impelled to reply to Roger Henry's letter about my article on being denied an apartment. I truly resent any insinuation that I "slunk back into that rotting old closet."
    • 2016, Noam Chomsky, What Kind of Creatures Are We?, New York: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page 61:
      Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to overcome the devilish impact of these disastrous policies []
  2. (transitive) To drive forward; to propel an object, to provide an impetus for motion or action.
    Synonym: propel


Related terms[edit]