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

Essential Meaning of compulsory

1 : required by a law or rule compulsory [=mandatory] education/retirement
2 : having the power of forcing someone to do something a compulsory law

Full Definition of compulsory

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web In a landmark 1905 decision, the court upheld compulsory vaccination for the public good., 14 Oct. 2021 Card noted that Krueger co-authored with his co-winner Angrist an early paper on the economic effects of compulsory schooling that led to Angrist and Imbens’s later work on the same topic cited by the Nobel committee. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 14 Oct. 2021 Concussions rates were 74 percent higher during competitions among players in states without compulsory headgear use when compared with games played in Florida. Bill Pennington, New York Times, 8 Oct. 2021 One example of such a civic obligation that Scalia cited for his slippery-slope argument: compulsory vaccination laws. Gilad Edelman, Wired, 5 Oct. 2021 The courts have previously upheld laws requiring compulsory vaccination: In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld state laws that require vaccination against communicable diseases. Los Angeles Times, 1 Oct. 2021 But the company requires Yusuke to have a driver—a young woman, named Misaki (Toko Miura), with little connection to the theatre—and his unwanted yet compulsory time with her changes his relationship to his work and to his past. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2021 In May, more than 100 staffers at Houston Methodist Hospital filed suit to dispute and derail the hospital system's compulsory vaccination. Christine Spolar, CNN, 18 June 2021 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

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for compulsory

Time Traveler

The first known use of compulsory was in 1581

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Dictionary Entries Near compulsory



compulsory jurisdiction

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Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Compulsory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for compulsory


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


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