to quell means:

to stop something that you do not want to happen

to subdue means:

to start to control someone or something, especially by using force

source : cambridge dictionaries

  • 6
    Those two definitions seem to cover it fairly well - did you have a question?
    – Damien H
    Aug 25, 2015 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


You don't quell a bank robber, you subdue a bank robber.

When applied to individuals, the word quell is often used with emotions: we quell our fears, we quell our urges, we quell our anger.

When applied to groups, we quell rebellions, insurrections, and revolts. Have a look.

Of course, the two words are roughly synonymous, so there is plenty of room for overlap. We can subdue our anger, for example.

  • So can we say both verbs is often used with emotions,except that only rough difference is the verb subdue is applied to physical one-to-one confrontations like robber whereas the verb quell is applied to more collective confrontations like riot
    – Mrt
    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:32
  • @Mrt - that's how the words are generally used. But English is a flexible language, and you shouldn't be surprised if you see creative writers stretching beyond those boundaries.
    – J.R.
    Aug 26, 2015 at 11:22

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