[kuh m-pel-ing]
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  1. tending to compel, as to force or push toward a course of action; overpowering: There were compelling reasons for their divorce.
  2. having a powerful and irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect: a man of compelling integrity; a compelling drama.

Origin of compelling

First recorded in 1490–1500; compel + -ing2
Related formsun·com·pel·ling, adjective


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.
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

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)

Synonyms for compel

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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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for compelling

fascinating, compulsory, forcible, imperative, coercive

Examples from the Web for compelling

Contemporary Examples of compelling

Historical Examples of compelling

  • His senses breathed the air of her perfect and compelling femininity.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • And then, as the other nodded in assent, she spoke with a compelling kindliness.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Now there was something so compelling about her tone that he bent all his faculties to the task.

  • Some women went by, compelling Salvat to step off the foot-pavement.

  • The heritage was too compelling for a wolf that was only a cub.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for compelling


  1. arousing or denoting strong interest, esp admiring interest
  2. (of an argument, evidence, etc) convincing


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
Derived Formscompellable, adjectivecompellably, adverbcompeller, noun

Word Origin for compel

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 compelling

c.1600, present participle adjective from compel. Meaning "irresistible" is from 1901. Related: Compellingly.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper