compel

verb
com·​pel | \kəm-ˈpel \
compelled; compelling

Definition of compel 

transitive verb

1 : to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly Hunger compelled him to eat. The general was compelled to surrender.

2 : to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure Public opinion compelled her to sign the bill.

3 archaic : to drive together

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Other Words from compel

compellable \ kəm-​ˈpe-​lə-​bəl \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for compel

force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield. force is the general term and implies the overcoming of resistance by the exertion of strength, power, or duress. forced to flee for their lives compel typically suggests overcoming of resistance or unwillingness by an irresistible force. compelled to admit my mistake coerce suggests overcoming resistance or unwillingness by actual or threatened violence or pressure. coerced into signing over the rights constrain suggests the effect of a force or circumstance that limits freedom of action or choice. constrained by conscience oblige implies the constraint of necessity, law, or duty. felt obliged to go

Did You Know?

The prefix com- acts as a strengthener in this word; thus, to compel is to drive powerfully, or force. So you may feel compelled to speak to a friend about his drinking, or compelled to reveal a secret in order to prevent something from happening. A compulsion is usually a powerful inner urge; a compulsive shopper or a compulsive gambler usually can't hold onto money for long. You might not want to do something unless there's a compelling reason; however, a compelling film is simply one that seems serious and important.

Examples of compel in a Sentence

Illness compelled him to stay in bed. We took steps to compel their cooperation.

Recent Examples on the Web

And yet the film does have exert a perverse fascination, the same sort that compels drivers to slow down while passing a horrific car accident. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Eat Me': Film Review," 5 July 2018 Denmark’s government is introducing a new set of laws to regulate life in 25 low-income and heavily Muslim enclaves, saying that if families there do not willingly merge into the country’s mainstream, they should be compelled. Martin Selsoe Sorensen, The Seattle Times, "Harsh new laws for immigrant ‘ghettos’ in Denmark," 2 July 2018 Cuomo has retired that promise and compelled the M.T.A. to pay the charges. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 Procrastination isn’t just universal among humans; the entire universe procrastinates: Newton’s First Law of Motion says a body at rest will stay at rest unless compelled to change state. Savvy Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, Scientific American, "Why We Procrastinate, and 5 Ways to Stop," 20 June 2018 Elgen Long, the last surviving member of a commercial flight crew that saved nearly 2,000 Jewish refugees stranded in Yemen almost 70 years ago, finished his speech, she felt compelled to stand. Oren Peleg, Jewish Journal, "Surviving flight crew member who saved Yemenite Jews honored," 13 June 2018 The Office of Consumer Protection also gains power to investigate tenant complaints or initiate its own investigations and compel landlords to provide relevant documents. Kate Magill, Columbia Flier, "Tenants get new rights as Howard revises leasing rules," 6 June 2018 That compelled her to throw her hat into the ring against Knight. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "The science candidates: Jess Phoenix says her defeat shows how much in politics needs to change," 15 June 2018 While doctors have debated its shortcomings for some time, one surgeon’s social media post from last November compelled us to take a harder look at the injectable. Jolene Edgar, Allure, "The Kybella Debate: Why Some Plastic Surgeons and Dermatologists Are Reconsidering the Chin-Slimming Injectable," 30 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'compel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of compel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for compel

Middle English compellen, from Anglo-French compeller, from Latin compellere, from com- + pellere to drive — more at felt

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Statistics for compel

Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for compel

The first known use of compel was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for compel

compel

verb

English Language Learners Definition of compel

: to force (someone) to do something

: to make (something) happen : to force (something)

compel

verb
com·​pel | \kəm-ˈpel \
compelled; compelling

Kids Definition of compel

1 : to make (as a person) do something by the use of physical, moral, or mental pressure : force … so greatly did hunger compel him, he was not above taking what did not belong to him.— Jack London, The Call of the Wild

2 : to make happen by force He compelled obedience.

com·​pel | \kəm-ˈpel \
compelled; compelling

Legal Definition of compel 

: to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure and especially by authority or law cannot compel the defendant to testify the result…is compelled by, the original understanding of the fourteenth amendment's equal protection clause— R. H. Bork

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Comments on compel

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