Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb com·press \kəm-ˈpres\

Simple Definition of compress

  • : to press or squeeze (something) so that it is smaller or fills less space

  • : to make (something) shorter or smaller

  • computers : to reduce the size of (a computer file) by using special software

Full Definition of compress

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to press or squeeze together

  3. 2 :  to reduce in size, quantity, or volume as if by squeezing <compress a computer file>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to undergo compression

Examples of compress

  1. compress the air in a closed chamber

  2. Her lips compressed into a frown.

  3. a material that compresses easily

  4. This type of file compresses easily.

Origin of compress

Middle English, from Late Latin compressare to press hard, frequentative of Latin comprimere to compress, from com- + premere to press — more at press

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of compress

contract, shrink, condense, compress, constrict, deflate mean to decrease in bulk or volume. contract applies to a drawing together of surfaces or particles or a reduction of area or length <caused her muscles to contract>. shrink implies a contracting or a loss of material and stresses a falling short of original dimensions <the sweater will shrink when washed>. condense implies a reducing of something homogeneous to greater compactness without significant loss of content <condense the essay into a paragraph>. compress implies a pressing into a small compass and definite shape usually against resistance <compressed cotton into bales>. constrict implies a tightening that reduces diameter <the throat is constricted by a tight collar>. deflate implies a contracting by reducing the internal pressure of contained air or gas <deflate the balloon>.



noun com·press \ˈkäm-ˌpres\

Simple Definition of compress

  • : a folded cloth that is pressed against a part of the body to reduce pain or stop bleeding from an injury

Full Definition of compress

  1. 1 :  a folded cloth or pad applied so as to press upon a body part

  2. 2 :  a machine for compressing

Origin of compress

Middle French compresse, from compresser to compress, from Late Latin compressare

First Known Use: 1599

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up compress? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 11, 2016

the holder of an office

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

16.96 pounds 196.5 pounds 2.2 pounds 100 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.