[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 compulsively

Contemporary Examples of compulsively

  • Prisoners there became severely depressed: some began to compulsively mutilate themselves; others attempted suicide.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The One Photo a Prisoner Wants to See

    Isabel Wilkinson

    May 6, 2013

  • Put aside Santorum, who compulsively froths, and Romney who (to reverse a Hebrew saying) is always a weathervane, never a compass.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Please Shut Up

    Gershom Gorenberg

    March 12, 2012

  • I came across this book in high school, and read it compulsively.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Annette Gordon-Reed’s Book Picks

    Annette Gordon-Reed

    June 16, 2009

  • Though an affable enough personality, Murdoch is a compulsively aggressive businessman.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Murdoch's Italian Offensive

    Conrad Black

    June 10, 2009

  • The way my imagination works is that I compulsively imagine alternative scenarios to the situations in my life.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Way Out of Sarajevo

    Jane Ciabattari

    May 14, 2009

Historical Examples of compulsively

British Dictionary definitions for compulsively



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 compulsively



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 compulsively




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.