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[im-pel] /ɪmˈpɛl/
verb (used with object), impelled, impelling.
to drive or urge forward; press on; incite or constrain to action.
to drive or cause to move onward; propel; impart motion to.
Origin of impel
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English impellen < Latin impellere to strike against, set in motion (transitive), equivalent to im- im-1 + pellere to strike, move (something); akin to pulse1
Related forms
unimpelled, adjective
Can be confused
compel, impel (see synonym study at compel)
compelled, impelled.
1. actuate. See compel.
1. restrain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for impelled
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She had not spoken to him of her schoolfellows, or of the object that had impelled her flight.

    Meg's Friend Alice Abigail Corkran
  • He had not the least idea why he had been impelled to go home.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • There were, however, conditions in the home-lands as well as in America, which impelled immigration.

  • They held their course as if they were impelled and driven by its fury.

  • In ordinary life a man will be impelled to actions by outward motives and conditions.

    The Way of Initiation Rudolf Steiner
  • Then, impelled by an instinctive sense of justice, she resumed.

  • I was thankful that I had been impelled to spring back as I had done, for I certainly had not previously intended doing so.

    Dick Onslow W.H.G. Kingston
  • A new idea had just impelled Claude onward through the crowd.

    His Masterpiece Emile Zola
British Dictionary definitions for impelled


verb (transitive) -pels, -pelling, -pelled
to urge or force (a person) to an action; constrain or motivate
to push, drive, or force into motion
Derived Forms
impellent, noun, adjective
Word Origin
C15: from Latin impellere to push against, drive forward, from im- (in) + pellere to drive, push, strike
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for impelled



early 15c., from Latin impellere "to push, strike against, drive forward, urge on," from assimilated form of in- "into, in, on, upon" (see in- (2)) + pellere "to push, drive" (see pulse (n.1)). Related: Impelled; impelling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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