Definition of compel
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
compellableplay \kəm-ˈpe-lə-bəl\ adjective
Examples of compel in a Sentence
Illness compelled him to stay in bed.
We took steps to compel their cooperation.
Recent Examples of compel from the Web
USA TODAY Sports As both a father and long-time hockey coach, Mike Guentzel has always felt compelled to prod his son Jake about the strength of his shot.
It’s often been debated what exactly compelled Churchill to reverse course.
Zinke’s order, signed during a visit to Anchorage, also compels a rewrite of a 2013 plan that limited oil and natural gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff, who are leading the committee’s probe, say the panel approved the subpoenas to compel certain individuals to testify and to obtain personal documents and business records.
Her popular gifts to patients have compelled Sofia to return to the unit several times a year.
The native populations were massacred, driven from their lands and compelled to give up their language and culture.
But there is a crucial difference: despite customers essentially paying the front-of-house staff directly, through tips, employers in the service industry are still compelled to pay an hourly wage and, in New York City, to provide sick leave.
But federal water regulators can compel east valley dam operators to let out flows in order to satisfy downstream environmental needs.
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of compel
Middle English compellen, from Anglo-French compeller, from Latin compellere, from com- + pellere to drive — more at felt
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of compel
COMPEL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of compel for English Language Learners
: to force (someone) to do something
: to make (something) happen : to force (something)
COMPEL Defined for Kids
Definition of compel for Students
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.
Word Root of compel
The Latin word pellere, meaning “to cause to move” or “to drive,” gives us the root pel. Words from the Latin pellere have something to do with driving or causing something to move. To propel is to drive forward. To compel is to drive someone to do something. To expel is to drive out. To repel is to drive back or away.
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
Seen and Heard
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