Jellyfish have provided insight into important components of animal propulsion, such as suction thrust, passive energy recapture, vortex wall effects, and the rotational mechanics of turning. These traits are critically important to jellyfish because they must propel themselves despite severe limitations on force production imposed by rudimentary cnidarian muscular structures. Consequently, jellyfish swimming can occur only by careful orchestration of fluid interactions. Yet these mechanics may be more broadly instructive because they also characterize processes shared with other animal swimmers, whose structural and neurological complexity can obscure these interactions. In comparison with other animal models, the structural simplicity, comparative energetic efficiency, and ease of use in laboratory experimentation allow jellyfish to serve as favorable test subjects for exploration of the hydrodynamic bases of animal propulsion. These same attributes also make jellyfish valuable models for insight into biomimetic or bioinspired engineeringof swimming vehicles. Here, we review advances in understanding of propulsive mechanics derived from jellyfish models as a pathway toward the application of animal mechanics to vehicle designs.