[ kuh m-puhl-shuh n ]
/ kəmˈpʌl ʃən /


the act of compelling; constraint; coercion.
the state or condition of being compelled.
Psychology. a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will.

Nearby words

  1. compton, karl taylor,
  2. compton-burnett,
  3. comptroller,
  4. comptroller general of the united states,
  5. comptroller of the currency,
  6. compulsive,
  7. compulsive personality,
  8. compulsively,
  9. compulsory,
  10. compulsory purchase

Origin of compulsion

1375–1425; late Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Late Latin compulsiōn- (stem of compulsiō), equivalent to Latin compuls(us), past participle of compellere to compel (com- com- + pul- variant stem + -sus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

Related formsnon·com·pul·sion, nounpre·com·pul·sion, noun

Can be confusedcompulsion compunction Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for compulsion

British Dictionary definitions for compulsion


/ (kəmˈpʌlʃən) /


the act of compelling or the state of being compelled
something that compels
psychiatry an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often of a trivial and repetitive nature, against his or her willSee also obsession

Word Origin for compulsion

C15: from Old French, from Latin compellere to compel

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 compulsion



early 15c., from Middle French compulsion, from Latin compulsionem (nominative compulsio) "a driving, urging," noun of action from past participle stem of compellere "compel" (see compel). Psychological sense is from 1909 in A.A. Brill's translation of Freud's "Selected Papers on Hysteria," where German Zwangsneurose is rendered as compulsion neurosis.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for compulsion


[ kəm-pŭlshən ]


An uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable ideas and desires which, by themselves, arouse anxiety.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for compulsion


In psychology, an internal force that leads persons to act against their will. A “compulsive” act cannot be controlled: “Smith was a compulsive gambler.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.