com·​pul·​so·​ry | \ kəm-ˈpəls-rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio) , -ˈpəl-sə- \

Definition of compulsory

1 : mandatory, enforced compulsory retirement
2 : coercive, compelling compulsory measures

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from compulsory

compulsorily \ kəm-​ˈpəls-​rə-​lē How to pronounce compulsory (audio) , -​ˈpəl-​sə-​ \ adverb

Examples of compulsory in a Sentence

To free the mind and the heart from compulsory religious confession and observance was good for all three interested parties: the state, the church and the people. — Jon Meacham, Newsweek, 27 Jan. 2009 So he wants a private life and no photographs and nobody to know his home address. I can dig it, I can relate to that (but, like he should try it when it's compulsory instead of a free-choice option). — Salman Rushdie, New York Times Book Review, 14 Jan. 1990 He began to resent the compulsory attendance at the boring factory meetings. — James Reston, Jr., Time, 28 Nov. 1988 compulsory retirement at age 70
See More
Recent Examples on the Web High school is not only not compulsory in China, but attending an academic (instead of vocational) high school requires competitive exams and fees that are prohibitive for poor families. Anne Stevenson-yang, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Criticism has also been made of dozens of crew members and extras gathering together without masks, which are compulsory in public spaces in Hong Kong. Chandran Nair, Time, 27 Aug. 2021 Meanwhile, Biden met this week with executives from companies including Disney and Microsoft to talk about his plan to make shots more compulsory. Eve Sneider, Wired, 17 Sep. 2021 Further, not all poor countries have medicine-making capabilities, and compulsory licensing only allows production for domestic use. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, 20 Aug. 2021 Once a coronavirus vaccine is required for military personnel, it will probably be tracked as part of each service member's medical record along with other compulsory vaccinations. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 10 Aug. 2021 President Joe Biden also ordered the military to move toward compulsory vaccinations. Lawrence O. Gostin, Scientific American, 5 Aug. 2021 Many other institutions have shied away from compulsory vaccinations., 5 Aug. 2021 With the highly transmissible delta variant spreading in Germany, politicians have debated the possibility of compulsory vaccinations for specific professions, including medical workers. Emily Schultheis, ajc, 25 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'compulsory.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of compulsory

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for compulsory

borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French compulsorie "compelling, coercive," borrowed from Medieval Latin compulsōrius, derivative, with -tōrius, deverbal adjective suffix (originally forming derivatives from agent nouns ending in -tōr-, -tor) of Latin compellere "to drive together, force to go, force (to a view, course of action)" (with -s- from past participle compulsus) — more at compel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About compulsory

Time Traveler for compulsory

Time Traveler

The first known use of compulsory was in 1581

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near compulsory



compulsory jurisdiction

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for compulsory

Last Updated

7 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Compulsory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for compulsory



English Language Learners Definition of compulsory

: required by a law or rule
: having the power of forcing someone to do something


com·​pul·​so·​ry | \ kəm-ˈpəls-rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio) , -ˈpəl-sə-rē \

Kids Definition of compulsory

1 : required by or as if by law compulsory education
2 : having the power of forcing someone to do something a compulsory law


com·​pul·​so·​ry | \ kəm-ˈpəl-sə-rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio) \

Legal Definition of compulsory

1 : required or compelled by law : mandatory, obligatory compulsory arbitration compulsory insurance specifically : required to be brought or asserted in a pleading because of having arisen from the transaction or occurrence that is the subject of litigation a compulsory counterclaim compulsory reconvention — compare elective, permissive
2 : using compulsion : compelling compulsory measures

Other Words from compulsory

compulsorily \ -​sə-​rə-​lē How to pronounce compulsory (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on compulsory

Nglish: Translation of compulsory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of compulsory for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!