Definition of repellent in US English:


(also repellant)


  • 1often in combination Able to repel a particular thing; impervious to a particular substance.

    ‘water-repellent nylon’
    • ‘Avoid using electronic repellent devices, mothballs or other unregistered products.’
    • ‘The repellent agent cannot gain anything from the washing materials agent.’
    • ‘‘This new repellent chemistry affords flexibility and choice for protection against a variety of disease vectors,’ says Klun.’
    • ‘Irrigate the area to be treated with 1/2 inch of water before applying the repellent solution and follow with 1 inch or more of water.’
    impermeable, impervious, resistant
    View synonyms
  • 2Causing disgust or distaste.

    ‘the idea was slightly repellent to her’
    • ‘Despite their repellent condition, they resemble ancient Britons.’
    • ‘Jerry also works the streets, pimping his old lady Stella to raise the cash to buy smack from the repellent drug lord, Fats.’
    • ‘Oil is generating plenty of income, while productivity is often abysmal and the quality of local products repellent.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most repellant scene in the movie, it quickly takes the ugly overtones of a rape scene as he forces himself into her.’
    • ‘As a film, it makes for difficult, almost repellent viewing.’
    • ‘Uské's freakishness itself is still an oddity that nags one's curiosity, no matter how repellant he is.’
    • ‘As a result, the metamorphic forms have a simultaneously repellant and enticing effect.’
    • ‘The first third of the film intrigues us in a way that the remaining, explicitly repellent two thirds completely obliterates.’
    • ‘National pride can be a repellent trait in musicians, but Davies throws you off balance here.’
    • ‘Aside from the blunt-edged rockers, Smitten features an equally repellant set of languid piano pop.’
    • ‘Then, with repellent images of disgust, he urges his mother to cease all sexual relations with Claudius.’
    • ‘The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest becomes the more repellent and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together, within a limited space.’
    • ‘And Flaus is marvellous in the role, making the eccentric, repellent Krapp a sympathetic figure.’
    • ‘This site-specific installation collectively and individually embodies a repellent familiarity.’
    • ‘The repellent nature of this image evokes the almost primitive disgust that Nixon was able to elicit from his liberal enemies.’
    • ‘There is an especially repellent quotation highlighted in episcopal purple on the back cover.’
    • ‘That enterprise led to what I thought was a particularly repellent burst of American / European chauvinism - a fantasy that there was nothing there before the Europeans arrived.’
    • ‘Where paint is applied, the woolly material takes on a tacky, repellent quality.’
    • ‘But aside from Edith Massey's masterful turn as Queen Charlotta, the whole repellent realm makes little sense.’
    • ‘Billy Bob Thornton is brilliantly repellent as a depressed, alcoholic, obscenity-spouting, safe-cracking department store Santa.’
    revolting, repulsive, disgusting, repugnant, sickening, nauseating, stomach-turning, stomach-churning, nauseous, emetic, vile, nasty, foul, appalling, abominable, hideous, horrible, awful, dreadful, terrible, obnoxious, loathsome, offensive, objectionable, off-putting, distasteful, disagreeable, uninviting
    View synonyms


  • 1A substance that deters insects or other pests from approaching or settling.

    ‘a flea repellent’
    • ‘It is important to obtain a natural mosquito repellant, one that is free of DEET, the toxic additive found in most insect repellants.’
    • ‘A few days later, a 12-year-old boy in Florida sprayed his hand with insect repellent then lit it and ended up burning himself.’
    • ‘Insect repellants should be used in the early morning and late afternoon when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.’
    • ‘If you'd rather avoid chemicals, try herbal repellents.’
    • ‘There was at that time unfounded speculation that B vitamins acted as systemic insect repellants, 12 possibly because of the aroma of yeast excreted via the sweat.’
    • ‘Flea repellants also are sold in liquid form and are usually applied between the shoulder blades.’
    • ‘To be useful, pesticides and repellents must work against not only mosquitoes but also other disease-transmitting arthropods.’
    • ‘Insect repellents for humans and shampoos or collars containing insecticide for pets can help control or reduce tick infestations.’
    • ‘You can even make your own natural insect repellent with a little liquid soap, powdered cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, and water mixed in a spray bottle.’
    • ‘Citrus essential oils applied either directly to the skin or mixed in a base vegetable oil or lotion, cider vinegar and witch hazel, are also effective insect repellents.’
    • ‘Because of the nature of food plants, repellents are not a priority.’
    • ‘His work grew from earlier research by scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, who discovered a family of natural sugar esters that act as repellents to insects.’
    • ‘The study found detectable levels of 89 chemicals, including pesticides, phthalates, herbicides, pest repellents, and disinfectants.’
    • ‘Preliminary studies have shown that granular materials containing castor oil have been less effective than liquid repellents.’
    • ‘Precautions include the use of insect repellants, insecticide room sprays, mosquito netting, and screened windows.’
    • ‘Various forms of repellents also can be sprayed on trees to keep wildlife away.’
    • ‘But prevention is better than cure, and insect repellents and sprays are the first step in self-protection.’
    • ‘So use good deet-based insect repellants, and there's usually not a problem using them in children, as well.’
    • ‘With such new knowledge, malaria scientists will be able to pry out information long hidden in the genomes that can be used to design new insecticides, new repellants, and new drugs.’
    • ‘The fruits make good outdoor Christmas ornaments or could be used as insect pest repellents in the winter.’
  • 2A substance used to treat something, especially fabric or stone, so as to make it impervious to water.

    ‘treat brick with a silicone water repellent’
    • ‘Mosquito bites may be avoided by removing stagnant sources of water or by using protective clothing, repellants, larvicides, and, in cases of epidemics, insecticides.’


Mid 17th century: from Latin repellent- ‘driving back’, from the verb repellere (see repel).