Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.
tr.v. re·pulsed, re·puls·ing, re·puls·es
1. To drive back; repel: repulsed the attacking forces.
2. To rebuff or reject with rudeness, coldness, or denial.
3. Usage Problem To cause repugnance or distaste in: was repulsed by his drunken behavior.
1. The act of repulsing or the state of being repulsed: the repulse of an attack.
2. Rejection; refusal: a repulse of a would-be lover's advances.
[Middle English repulsen, from Latin repellere, repuls-; see repel.]
Usage Note: A number of language critics have maintained that repulse should only be used to mean "to drive away" (as in The infantry repulsed the attack) or "to spurn" (as in She repulsed his rude advances with a frown") and not "to cause repulsion in; disgust." Many reputable writers, however, use repulse as a synonym for disgust, just as the related words repulsion and repulsive are used to mean "disgust" and "disgusting." The verb repel is a synonym for this sense of repulse and is also standard when used in this way: "But some of the time she was repelled by even the thought of her classmates, greedy and self-absorbed" (Edith Pearlman).
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.