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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)
1. actuate.
1. restrain.
Synonym Study
1. See compel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for impelling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was to the girl as if the fragrance were twining and winding about her and impelling her like leashes.

  • The whole park did, indeed, appear to be impelling them gently onward.

  • This impelling and guiding power from the past we call instinct.

    The Mind and Its Education

    George Herbert Betts
  • The impelling and guiding motive of his letter is that they may not sin.

    Expositions of Holy Scripture

    Alexander Maclaren
  • This was the impelling power which Frederick William could not resist.

    The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte William Milligan Sloane
  • The billiard-ball, that strikes another, determines its movement by impelling.

    Creative Evolution Henri Bergson
  • Now it swelled into a smooth, impelling wail lulling him into drowsiness.

    The Beast of Space F.E. Hardart
  • It was, however, impelling our canoe, so that made no difference.

    Snow Shoes and Canoes William H. G. Kingston
  • But her visit, apparently, had not been productive of her impelling design.

British Dictionary definitions for impelling


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 impelling



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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