[ kuhm-puhl-shuhn ]
See synonyms for compulsion on
  1. the act of compelling; constraint; coercion.

  2. the state or condition of being compelled.

  1. Psychology. a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will.

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

Other words from compulsion

  • non·com·pul·sion, noun
  • pre·com·pul·sion, noun

Words that may be confused with compulsion

Words Nearby compulsion Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use compulsion in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for compulsion


/ (kəmˈpʌlʃən) /

  1. the act of compelling or the state of being compelled

  2. something that compels

  1. psychiatry an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often of a trivial and repetitive nature, against his or her will: See also obsession

Origin of 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

Cultural 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.