[ra-pel, ruh-]
  1. (in mountaineering) the act or method of moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body, usually under the left thigh and over the right shoulder, and paid out gradually in the descent.
verb (used without object), rap·pelled, rap·pel·ling.
  1. to descend by means of a rappel.

Origin of rappel

1930–35; < French: mountaineering term, literally, a recall. See repeal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rappel

Contemporary Examples of rappel

  • A beener or D ring was attached to each trainee via a rappel seat that went around his waist and upper thighs.

  • In time the X Troop was trained to rappel and parachute; to use guns, bayonets and knives; and even to kill with bare hands.

    The Daily Beast logo
    My Father, The Inglourious Basterd

    Kim Masters

    August 9, 2009

  • He paraglided, scuba dived, and even tried to rappel down Mt. Rushmore before he was rebuffed by park officials.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Remembering JFK, Jr.

    The Daily Beast

    July 15, 2009

Historical Examples of rappel

British Dictionary definitions for rappel


verb -pels, -pelling or -pelled
  1. another word (esp US) for abseil
  1. another word (esp US) for abseil
  2. (formerly) a drumbeat to call soldiers to arms

Word Origin for rappel

C19: from French, from rappeler to call back, from Latin appellāre to summon
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 rappel

1931, "mountaineering technique for descending steep faces," from French rappel, literally "recall" (Old French rapel), from rapeler "to recall, summon" (see repeal (v.)). The same word had been borrowed earlier (1848) to mean "a drum roll to summon soldiers."


1957 in the mountaineering sense; see rappel (n.). Related: Rappeled; rappelling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper