com·​pel | \ kəm-ˈpel How to pronounce compel (audio) \
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

Other Words from compel

compellable \ kəm-​ˈpe-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce compel (audio) \ 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 Attorney Thomas Bufkin, who represents New’s non-profit Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the defendants, included the texts as part of a motion to compel Bryant to produce further documents. Eric Levenson, CNN, 14 Sep. 2022 The other ruling, resolving a Musk motion to compel production of Slack messages from additional people, also had pointed criticism of the billionaire who has been trying to pull out of an agreement to buy Twitter. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 8 Sep. 2022 The Victims After the judge declared a mistrial, Halstead said the decision would compel the victims to relive their trauma once again at a new proceeding. Fox News, 6 Sep. 2022 Meta argues the documents are critical to its defense and this month filed a motion to compel the FTC to hand them over. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 27 July 2022 His attorney, Douglas Wigdor, said a motion to compel arbitration would be improper because the arbitrator is league commissioner Roger Goodell. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 2 May 2022 Judge Timothy Taylor granted a motion to compel the production of emails and other documents demanded by lawyers for Jason Hughes, one of the defendants in a pair of lawsuits the city filed in an attempt to void the leases. Jeff Mcdonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 On April 8, James' office filed a motion to compel the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield to comply with subpoenas related to appraisal work done on several Trump properties. Graham Kates, CBS News, 19 Apr. 2022 Tesla in December filed a motion to compel arbitration in the Barraza case, arguing it should be handled out of court. Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of compel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for compel

Middle English compeller "to coerce, force, constrain," borrowed from Anglo-French compeller, borrowed from Latin compellere "to drive together, force to go, force (to a view, course of action)," from com- com- + pellere "to beat against, push, strike, rouse, impel" — more at pulse entry 1

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Time Traveler for compel

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

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Dictionary Entries Near compel



compellable witness

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Statistics for compel

Last Updated

22 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Compel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for compel


com·​pel | \ kəm-ˈpel How to pronounce compel (audio) \
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.


transitive verb
com·​pel | \ kəm-ˈpel How to pronounce compel (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on compel

Nglish: Translation of compel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of compel for Arabic Speakers


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