com·​pul·​so·​ry kəm-ˈpəls-rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio)
: mandatory, enforced
compulsory retirement
: coercive, compelling
compulsory measures
kəm-ˈpəls-rə-lē How to pronounce compulsory (audio)

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web Amini’s death sparked a public outcry, and many women began publicly shunning or destroying head-scarves that have been compulsory for women and girls for decades. Arsalan Shahla,, 4 Dec. 2022 Coming of age in Germany as the Nazi Party seized power, Benedict’s past often garnered heavy scrutiny: He was drafted into an antiaircraft unit during World War II, and joined the Hitler Youth as a teenager, when enrollment was compulsory. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 31 Dec. 2022 But for Gregory-Propst, chef/owner of Se7enbites - whose restaurant’s menu seeps butter and sausage gravy from every Southern pore — learning about it was compulsory. Amy Drew Thompson, Orlando Sentinel, 21 Dec. 2022 There are other jurisdictions beyond New York and El Salvador looking at imposing compulsory tender laws that force people to accept certain kinds of payments. David G.w. Birch, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2022 She was forced into hiding in September, when a warrant was issued for her arrest following the outbreak of nationwide protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman accused of flouting the country’s compulsory hijab laws. Hannah Ritchie, CNN, 24 Dec. 2022 For one, reporting isn’t compulsory for anyone but federal law enforcement. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 13 Dec. 2022 Registering for military service is compulsory for men in Ukraine. Byphil Wahba And Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 5 Dec. 2022 Amini's death touched off huge protests against compulsory hjiab laws and other women's rights issues, and people have continued to take to the streets daily to demand an end to the Islamic Republic. Sophie Carson, Journal Sentinel, 16 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of compulsory was in 1581

Dictionary Entries Near compulsory

Cite this Entry

“Compulsory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


com·​pul·​so·​ry kəm-ˈpəls-(ə-)rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio)
: required by or as if by law
compulsory education
: having the power of forcing someone to do something
a compulsory law

Legal Definition


com·​pul·​so·​ry kəm-ˈpəl-sə-rē How to pronounce compulsory (audio)
: 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
: using compulsion : compelling
compulsory measures
compulsorily adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on compulsory

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