com·​pul·​sive | \ kəm-ˈpəl-siv How to pronounce compulsive (audio) \

Definition of compulsive

1 : having power to compel forced to resort to compulsive measures
2 : of, relating to, caused by, or suggestive of psychological compulsion or obsession compulsive actions a compulsive gambler compulsive eating

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Other Words from compulsive

compulsively adverb
compulsiveness noun
compulsivity \ kəm-​ˌpəl-​ˈsi-​və-​tē How to pronounce compulsivity (audio) , ˌkäm-​ \ noun

Examples of compulsive in a Sentence

his compulsive clowning around can sometimes be annoying

Recent Examples on the Web

The compulsive coverage continues during the White House press briefing. Fox News, "Gorka on New Mexico compound case 'travesty'," 15 Aug. 2018 Those symptoms might include compulsive use or having their use get in the way of their ability to focus on and live their life. Korin Miller, SELF, "Kelly Osbourne Says She's Been Sober for a Year After Experiencing a Relapse," 13 Aug. 2018 For Navarro, drawing has always been an almost compulsive pastime. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Meet the Young Artist Behind Tyler, the Creator’s Doodle-Covered Chucks," 20 Nov. 2018 Splitting, or compulsive, neurotic reordering of all persons and things as either good or bad, was originally seen as a feature of borderline-personality disorder. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "When the Fever Passes, Learn From Trump’s Taxes," 12 Oct. 2018 For some people, trichotillomania is a mild disorder that is generally manageable, but for others, the compulsive urges leave them with patchy bald spots. Temi Adebowale, Harper's BAZAAR, "Model Sara Sampaio Reveals She Suffers From Trichotillomania," 30 July 2018 That lets the wasp lead the now-docile roach to her nest by the antenna—after the roach engages in a spot of compulsive grooming behavior, because who doesn't want to look their best while being eaten alive? Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Cockroaches deliver karate kicks to avoid being turned into “zombies”," 3 Nov. 2018 Eventually, neurosurgeons noticed stimulation could also improve symptoms for disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder, with some success. Daniela Hernandez, WSJ, "Brain Data Could Read Moods, Potentially Treat Depression," 10 Sep. 2018 Gus’s compulsive behavior, a growing pile of research suggests, is distressingly common among captive animals. David Scharfenberg,, "Did humans drive this polar bear insane?," 13 July 2018

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

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for compulsive

see compulsion

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Time Traveler for compulsive

The first known use of compulsive was in 1588

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More Definitions for compulsive



English Language Learners Definition of compulsive

: caused by a desire that is too strong to resist : impossible to stop or control
: not able to stop or control doing something
chiefly British : very interesting


com·​pul·​sive | \ -ˈpəl-siv How to pronounce compulsive (audio) \

Medical Definition of compulsive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, caused by, or suggestive of psychological compulsion or obsession repetitive and compulsive behavior compulsive hoarding a compulsive gambler

Other Words from compulsive

compulsively adverb
compulsiveness noun
compulsivity \ kəm-​ˌpəl-​ˈsiv-​ət-​ē, ˌkäm-​ How to pronounce compulsivity (audio) \ noun, plural -ties
Prozac, which increases the amount of serotonin sloshing around brain circuits, seems to reduce the compulsivity of autism. — Karen Springen, Newsweek, 13 May 1996



Medical Definition of compulsive (Entry 2 of 2)

: one who is subject to a psychological compulsion

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Comments on compulsive

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to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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