[ kuhm-pel ]
See synonyms for: compelcompelledcompellingcompels on

verb (used with object),com·pelled, com·pel·ling.
  1. to force or drive, especially to a course of action: His disregard of the rules compels us to dismiss him.

  2. to secure or bring about by force.

  1. to force to submit; subdue.

  2. to overpower.

  3. Archaic. to drive together; unite by force; herd.

verb (used without object),com·pelled, com·pel·ling.
  1. to use force.

  2. to have a powerful and irresistible effect, influence, etc.

Origin of compel

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English compellen, from Anglo-French or directly from Latin compellere “to crowd, force,” equivalent to com- com- + pellere “to push, drive”

synonym study For compel

3. Compel, impel agree in the idea of using physical or other force to cause something to be done. Compel means to constrain someone, in some way, to yield or to do what one wishes: to compel a recalcitrant debtor to pay; Fate compels us to face danger and trouble. Impel may mean literally to push forward, but is usually applied figuratively, meaning to provide a strong motive or incentive toward a certain end: Wind impels a ship. Curiosity impels me to ask.

Other words for compel

Other words from compel

  • com·pel·la·ble, adjective
  • com·pel·la·bly, adverb
  • com·pel·lent, adjective
  • com·pel·ler, noun
  • com·pel·ling·ly, adverb
  • pre·com·pel, verb (used with object), pre·com·pelled, pre·com·pel·ling.
  • un·com·pel·la·ble, adjective

Words that may be confused with compel

Words Nearby compel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use compel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for compel


/ (kəmˈpɛl) /

verb-pels, -pelling or -pelled (tr)
  1. to cause (someone) by force (to be or do something)

  2. to obtain by force; exact: to compel obedience

  1. to overpower or subdue

  2. archaic to herd or drive together

Origin of compel

C14: from Latin compellere to drive together, from com- together + pellere to drive

Derived forms of compel

  • compellable, adjective
  • compellably, adverb
  • compeller, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012