[kuh m-puhl-siv]


compelling; compulsory.
  1. pertaining to, characterized by, or involving compulsion: a compulsive desire to cry.
  2. governed by an obsessive need to conform, be scrupulous, etc., coupled with an inability to express positive emotions.


Psychology. a person whose behavior is governed by a compulsion.

Origin of compulsive

1595–1605; obsolete compulse v. (< Latin compuls(us), past participle of compellere; see compulsion) + -ive
Related formscom·pul·sive·ly, adverbcom·pul·sive·ness, com·pul·siv·i·ty [kuh m-puhl-siv-i-tee, kom-puhl-] /kəm pʌlˈsɪv ɪ ti, ˌkɒm pʌl-/, nounnon·com·pul·sive, adjectivenon·com·pul·sive·ly, adverbqua·si-com·pul·sive, adjectivequa·si-com·pul·sive·ly, adverbun·com·pul·sive, adjectiveun·com·pul·sive·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcompulsive impulsive impetuous (see synonym study at impetuous) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for compulsive

British Dictionary definitions for compulsive



relating to or involving compulsion


psychiatry an individual who is subject to a psychological compulsion
Derived Formscompulsively, adverbcompulsiveness, 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

Word Origin and History for compulsive

c.1600, from French compulsif, from Latin compulsus, past participle of compellere (see compel). Psychological sense is from 1902. As a noun, attested from 1630s; psychological sense from 1957. Related: Compulsively; compulsiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for compulsive




Caused or conditioned by compulsion or obsession.


A person with behavior patterns governed by a compulsion.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.