early 15c. (Chauliac), repulsif, "able to repel, having the power to dissipate collected humors," from Old French repulsif (14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin repulsivus, from repuls-, past-participle stem of repellere "to drive back" (see repel).
From 1590s as "tending to repel by coldness of manner, etc." The sense of "causing disgust, grossly or coarsely offensive to taste or feeling" is recorded by 1816. Related: Repulsively; repulsiveness.