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Repel vs. repulse

The verbs repel and repulse are generally used interchangeably in modern English, but they do have slightly different senses. Both mean to ward off or keep away, but repulse usually refers to physical actions, while repel (which is different from rappel) is more likely to be used figuratively or to denote emotional states. So the adjective repulsive actually corresponds with repel rather than repulse.

Examples

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They were met by waves of police and security forces who used water cannon, tear gas and clubs to repulse them. [Just International]

Stepping inside, this colorful new eco-friendly eatery can either charm or repel you, depending on whether you like your pizza served with a side of liberal guilt. [TBO.com]

However, the administrator said the herders managed to repulse the attackers and recovered some of the stolen animals. [Daily Nation]

Vices attract, virtues repel—at least when it comes to genes [Telegraph]

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