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verb (used with object), pro·pelled, pro·pel·ling.
  1. to drive, or cause to move, forward or onward: to propel a boat by rowing.
  2. to impel or urge onward: Urgent need of money propelled him to take a job.
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Origin of propel

1400–50; late Middle English propellen to expel < Latin prōpellere to drive forward, equivalent to prō- pro-1 + pellere to drive
Related formsun·pro·pelled, adjective


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1, 2. push, prod.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for propel


verb -pels, -pelling or -pelled
  1. (tr) to impel, drive, or cause to move forwards
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Word Origin

C15: from Latin prōpellere to drive onwards, from pro- 1 + pellere to drive
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

Word Origin and History for propel


mid-15c., "to drive away, expel," from Latin propellere "push forward, drive forward, drive forth; move, impel," from pro- "forward" (see pro-) + pellere "to push, drive" (see pulse (n.1)). Meaning "to drive onward, cause to move forward" is from 1650s. Related: Propelled; propelling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper