Pest Guides

What Does “Repel” Mean?

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The term “repel” is one you’ve likely encountered in various contexts. Perhaps you’ve used a mosquito repellent during summer, or you’ve learned about the repelling forces between magnets in physics class. But what exactly does “repel” mean? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the meaning of “repel,” its usage in different contexts, its synonyms and antonyms, and even its historical origin.


“Repel” is a verb that fundamentally means to drive back, force away, or discourage something or someone from approaching or attacking. It can be used in various contexts, such as physical force (like two bodies pushing away from each other), magnetic force (like magnets with the same polarity pushing away from each other), chemical repellents (substances that repel certain organisms), emotional context (indicating a strong aversion or distaste), social context (rejecting or putting off a request or demand), and military context (successfully fighting off and driving back an enemy).

The Basic Definition of “Repel”

At its most basic, “repel” is a verb that means to drive back, force away, or discourage something or someone from approaching or attacking. This term can be used in a variety of contexts, including physical force, magnetic force, chemical repellents, and even emotional and social situations.

For example, a fabric that repels water is designed to keep water away. In a military context, to repel an enemy means to successfully fight off and drive back an attacker. In the realm of emotions, you might be repelled by the idea of eating a particular food, indicating a strong aversion or distaste.

Repel in Different Contexts

The term “repel” can be used in various contexts, each with its unique nuances. Here are some common examples:

  1. Physical Force: In physics, “repel” refers to two bodies pushing away from each other, often due to an electrical force. For instance, two positive electrical charges or two negative electrical charges will repel each other.
  2. Magnetic Force: Magnets with the same polarity will repel each other, meaning they push away from each other.
  3. Chemical Repellents: A substance that repels certain organisms, such as insects, is referred to as a repellent. For instance, DEET is a common chemical repellent used to protect people from mosquito-borne illnesses.
  4. Emotional Context: In a more figurative sense, “repel” can describe something that causes aversion or disgust. You might be repelled by a disturbing image or an unkind remark.
  5. Social Context: “Repel” can also describe the act of rejecting or putting off a request, demand, or even an unwanted romantic advance.
  6. Military Context: In a military context, “repel” refers to the act of successfully fighting off and driving back an enemy or an attack.

Common Examples of “Repel”

To help you understand the term better, here are a few examples of “repel” used in sentences:

  1. Objects with the same electrical charge repel each other.
  2. The north pole of a bar magnet will repel the north pole of another magnet.
  3. A fabric that repels water is useful for making raincoats.
  4. The smell of garlic can repel mosquitoes.
  5. The repellent spray was effective in repelling insects during the camping trip.

Synonyms and Antonyms of “Repel”

There are several synonyms for “repel,” including chase away, confront, drive away, repulse, and resist. The appropriate synonym to use may depend on the context in which you’re using the word “repel.”

On the other hand, antonyms of “repel” include attract, embrace, welcome, and pull. These words represent the opposite action of repelling — drawing in or accepting rather than pushing away or rejecting.

The Historical Origin of “Repel”

The term “repel” dates back to the early 15th century, with roots in Old French and Latin. From the Latin “repellere,” meaning “to drive back,” “repel” has evolved over centuries to encompass a range of meanings from physical forces to emotional reactions.

Common Misconceptions About “Repel”

Despite its common use, there are several misconceptions about the term “repel.” For example, not all repellents kill the organisms they repel. Additionally, the effectiveness of a repellent doesn’t always correlate with its concentration of active ingredients. Understanding these nuances can help ensure accurate and effective communication.

In conclusion, “repel” is a versatile term with a range of meanings and applications. Whether you’re discussing physics, using a bug spray, or expressing personal aversion, understanding “repel” can enhance your communication and comprehension.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scientific principle that explains why like charges repel each other?

The scientific principle that explains why like charges repel each other is Coulomb’s Law. This law states that the force between two charges is directly proportional to the product of their charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This results in like charges (positive-positive or negative-negative) repelling each other.

Can “repel” be used in present, past, and future tenses?

Yes, “repel” can be used in different tenses. In the present tense, it is “repel” (I repel), in the past tense it is “repelled” (I repelled), and in the future tense, it is “will repel” (I will repel).

Are there any idioms or expressions that use the term “repel”?

While “repel” is not commonly used in idioms or expressions, the related term “repelling” is used in the phrase “like repelling like.” This phrase is often used to describe situations where similar individuals or things are in conflict or do not mix well, much like similar magnetic poles or electrical charges repel each other.

How is the term “repel” pronounced?

The term “repel” is pronounced as /rɪˈpɛl/. The first syllable is unstressed and sounds like “ri” in “rid,” while the second syllable is stressed and sounds like “pel” in “pellet.”

Is “repel” commonly used in everyday conversation?

While “repel” is not one of the most commonly used words in everyday conversation, it is a widely recognized and understood term. It may be used more frequently in certain contexts, such as scientific discussions, outdoor activities involving repellents, or conversations about personal preferences and aversions.

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