compulsion

noun

com·​pul·​sion kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio)
1
a
: 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.

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 Lanthimos leans into an odd compulsion to simultaneously shock and underwhelm the audience, losing some of the keenly pointed provocations of his earlier work. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 18 May 2024 These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. Vanessa Etienne, Peoplemag, 3 May 2024 Guadagnino’s healthy appreciation for compulsions has, in turn, made audiences fixated with him. Amy Nicholson, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr. 2024 Everyone experiences passing moments of worry, but with O.C.D. such thoughts become so invasive that the person experiencing them finds compulsions in order to cope. The New Yorker, 13 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for compulsion 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'compulsion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English compulsion, compulsioun "coercion," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French compulsion, borrowed from Latin compulsiōn-, compulsiō, derivative, with the suffix of verbal action -tiōn-, -tiō, of compellere "to drive together, force to go, force (to a view, course of action)" (with -s- from past participle compulsus); (sense 2) translation of German Zwang — more at compel

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near compulsion

Cite this Entry

“Compulsion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compulsion. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio)
1
: an act of compelling : the state of being compelled
2
: a force that compels
3
: an irresistible persistent urge
felt a compulsion to eat

Medical Definition

compulsion

noun
com·​pul·​sion kəm-ˈpəl-shən How to pronounce compulsion (audio)
: an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing)
also : the act itself compare obsession, phobia

Legal Definition

compulsion

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

More from Merriam-Webster on compulsion

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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