Definition of compel
- Hunger compelled him to eat.
- The general was compelled to surrender.
- Public opinion compelled her to sign the bill.
Illness compelled him to stay in bed.
We took steps to compel their cooperation.
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.
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.
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