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.
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
What made you want to look up compel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).