compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion | \ kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio) \

Definition of compulsion

1a : an act of compelling tried to get them to cooperate without using compulsion : the state of being compelled He was acting under compulsion.
b : a force that compels
2 : an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (such as excessive hand washing) her compulsion to repeatedly check and recheck the stove to be certain that it is turned off also : the act itself Gambling is a compulsion with him.

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Examples of compulsion in a Sentence

I gave in to one of my compulsions and ordered the chocolate dessert. We should be able to get them to cooperate without using compulsion.

Recent Examples on the Web

Just last month the 39-year-old dropped legislation aimed at curbing Americans’ compulsion to keep checking our screens for likes and retweets. Matt Laslo, WIRED, "Josh Hawley Says Tech Enables 'Some of the Worst of America'," 16 Aug. 2019 This process of working—which seems as much a compulsion as a method—was key to Simenon’s enormous productivity. Vince Passaro, Harper's magazine, "Maigret All Day," 22 July 2019 The compulsion to make a photograph isn’t as simple as pressing a button. National Geographic, "Your best photos of the week, June 7, 2019," 7 June 2019 Viola’s an easy sell—a badass, successful lesbian who projects confidence, but is also dealing (or not dealing) with her own destructive compulsions. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "'The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls' Is a Stunning Debut From Anissa Gray," 1 Apr. 2019 Eighty minutes had not absolved me of my compulsion to check in—with my inbox, my text messages, Instagram DMs, Twitter notifications, and more. Carrie Battan, Harper's BAZAAR, "Escaping the Seduction of Your Smartphone," 26 July 2018 There’s the economy of attention that draws users of games like Candy Crush and apps like Facebook into the compulsion loop of repetitive use. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Why Is There a ‘Gaming Disorder’ But No ‘Smartphone Disorder?’," 28 June 2018 Partly that’s due to the straightforward virtuosity of his playing, and partly to his compulsion to transcend and blend styles. New York Times, "13 Pop, Rock and Jazz Concerts to Check Out in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 31 May 2018 The idea also ties in with the marble angels that decorate our signature high-rise cemeteries and our incurable compulsion to costume. Doug Maccash, NOLA.com, "If you spot a Tricentennial Angel Monday (May 7), send us a photo," 7 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'compulsion.' 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 compulsion

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for compulsion

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin compulsion-, compulsio, from Latin compellere to compel

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Statistics for compulsion

Last Updated

24 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for compulsion

The first known use of compulsion was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for compulsion

compulsion

noun

English Language Learners Definition of compulsion

: a very strong desire to do something
: the act of using force or pressure to make someone do something
: the state of being forced to do something

compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion | \ kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio) \

Kids Definition of compulsion

1 : a very strong urge to do something He felt a compulsion to say something.
2 : a force that makes someone do something She was acting under compulsion.
3 : an act or the state of forcing an action They got what they wanted through compulsion.

compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion | \ kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio) \

Medical Definition of compulsion

: an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing) also : the act itself compare obsession, phobia

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compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion | \ kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio) \

Legal Definition of compulsion

1 : an act of compelling (as by threat or intimidation) specifically : coercion a payment exacted by lawless compulsion — E. A. Farnsworth and W. F. Young
2 : the state of being compelled specifically : duress

Note: Compulsion can make a contract voidable or be a ground for damages or restitution. Compulsion may also be a defense to a criminal act.

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