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See more synonyms for compel on Thesaurus.com
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.
  3. to force to submit; subdue.
  4. to overpower.
  5. Archaic. to drive together; unite by force; herd.
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verb (used without object), com·pelled, com·pel·ling.
  1. to use force.
  2. to have a powerful and irresistible effect, influence, etc.
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Origin of compel

1350–1400; Middle English compellen (< Anglo-French) < Latin compellere to crowd, force, equivalent to com- com- + pellere to push, drive
Related formscom·pel·la·ble, adjectivecom·pel·la·bly, adverbcom·pel·lent, adjectivecom·pel·ler, nouncom·pel·ling·ly, adverbpre·com·pel, verb (used with object), pre·com·pelled, pre·com·pel·ling.un·com·pel·la·ble, adjectiveun·com·pelled, adjective
Can be confusedcoerce compel constrain force obligecompel impel (see synonym study at the current entry)


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Synonym study

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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for compelled

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Finally they had been compelled to fire on them, but had not killed any.

  • A few shots were exchanged, and Melton was compelled to retreat.

  • While traveling that night I was compelled to pass a large plantation.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • I shall be compelled to mention in my report how you and other ladies add to our difficulties.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Now she was compelled to a readjustment: one worked in the night and slept in the day.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for compelled


verb -pels, -pelling or -pelled (tr)
  1. to cause (someone) by force (to be or do something)
  2. to obtain by force; exactto compel obedience
  3. to overpower or subdue
  4. archaic to herd or drive together
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Derived Formscompellable, adjectivecompellably, adverbcompeller, noun

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for compelled



mid-14c., from Old French compellir, from Latin compellere "to drive together, drive to one place" (of cattle), "to force or compel" (of persons), from com- "together" (see com-) + pellere "to drive" (see pulse (n.1)). Related: Compelled; compelling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper