Repeat element transcription plays a vital role in early embryonic development. The expression of repeats such as MERVL characterises mouse embryos at the 2-cell stage and defines a 2-cell-like cell (2CLC) population in a mouse embryonic stem cell culture. Repeat element sequences contain binding sites for numerous transcription factors. We identify the forkhead domain transcription factor FOXD3 as a regulator of major satellite repeats and MERVL transcription in mouse embryonic stem cells. FOXD3 binds to and recruits the histone methyltransferase SUV39H1 to MERVL and major satellite repeats, consequentially repressing the transcription of these repeats by the establishment of the H3K9me3 heterochromatin modification. Notably, depletion of FOXD3 leads to the de-repression of MERVL and major satellite repeats as well as a subset of genes expressed in the 2-cell state, shifting the balance between the stem cell and 2-cell-like population in culture. Thus, FOXD3 acts as a negative regulator of repeat transcription, ascribing a novel function to this transcription factor. © 2021 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.