compel

verb
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

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Other Words from compel

compellable \ kəm-​ˈpe-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce compellable (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

Whether Prop C can effectively compel companies to do so legally remains to be seen. Shirin Ghaffary, Recode, "San Francisco has passed a first-of-its-kind tax on big businesses — like Square and Stripe — to help the homeless," 7 Nov. 2018 The caterwauling has been such that Silver felt compelled to address the NBA’s imbalance of power this week. Gary Peterson, sacbee, "Breaking the NBA? On the contrary, the Warriors are doing it a favor," 12 July 2018 And in 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, compelling the FDA to develop regulations for water safety on produce. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "America’s Enduring Failure to Prevent Food-Borne Illness," 9 July 2018 This increased visibility interested Devito, as well as model KrystyAna, and compelled them to team up on the photo series. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Exclusive: This Powerful Portrait Series Shows Body Positivity Is More Than a Trend," 28 Sep. 2018 The nation’s top offense is imposing enough without compelling those bats to seek vengeance. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Texas drops first game in Super Regional," 9 June 2018 There are lots of international organizations, Kuttner writes, but the only ones that seem able to compel nations to do anything are the ones setting economic rules. Justin Fox, New York Times, "How Rampant Globalization Brought Us Trump," 18 May 2018 As stabbings become more frequent, more young people feel compelled to carry knives for their own protection, fueling a cycle of violence. Will Horner, WSJ, "Britain Struggles With Rise in Knife Attacks," 9 Nov. 2018 Snip & Sketch adds delay, border functions Because the current Windows 10 Snipping Tool lacked the ability to doodle and add notes, Microsoft felt compelled to ditch it entirely and start over. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Hints of Windows 10's 2019 future show up in early '19H1' builds," 6 Nov. 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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Learn More about compel

Statistics for compel

Last Updated

9 May 2019

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 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.
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on compel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with compel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for compel

Spanish Central: Translation of compel

Nglish: Translation of compel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of compel for Arabic Speakers

Comments on compel

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