Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To force (a person) to do something; drive or constrain: synonym: force.
  • transitive verb To necessitate or require, as by force of circumstance; demand.
  • transitive verb To exert a strong, irresistible force on; sway.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To drive or urge with force or irresistibly; constrain; oblige; coerce, by either physical or moral force: as, circumstances compel us to practise economy.
  • To subject; force to submit; subdue.
  • To take by force or violence; wrest; extort.
  • To drive together; unite by force; gather in a crowd or company; herd.
  • To overpower; overcome; control.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To make one yield or submit.
  • transitive verb To drive or urge with force, or irresistibly; to force; to constrain; to oblige; to necessitate, either by physical or moral force.
  • transitive verb rare To take by force or violence; to seize; to exact; to extort.
  • transitive verb To force to yield; to overpower; to subjugate.
  • transitive verb A Latinism To gather or unite in a crowd or company.
  • transitive verb obsolete To call forth; to summon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive, archaic (literally) To drive together, round up
  • verb transitive To overpower; to subdue
  • verb transitive To force, constrain or coerce
  • verb transitive To exact, extort, (make) produce by force

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb force somebody to do something
  • verb necessitate or exact

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English compellen, from Latin compellere : com-, com- + pellere, to drive; see pel- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English compellen, from Middle French compellir, from Latin compellere, itself from com- ("together") + pellere ("to drive"). Displaced native Middle English fordriven ("to drive out, to lead to, to compel, to force"). More at fordrive.

Examples

  • ‘Certainly,’ replied Traddles; ‘but, in the meanwhile, and until everything is done to our satisfaction, we shall maintain possession of these things; and beg you — in short, compel you — to keep to your own room, and hold no communication with anyone.’

    David Copperfield

  • 'Certainly,' replied Traddles; 'but, in the meanwhile, and until everything is done to our satisfaction, we shall maintain possession of these things; and beg you - in short, compel you - to keep to your own room, and hold no communication with anyone.'

    David Copperfield

  • 'Certainly,' replied Traddles; 'but, in the meanwhile, and until everything is done to our satisfaction, we shall maintain possession of these things; and beg you-in short, compel you-to keep to your own room, and hold no communication with anyone.'

    David Copperfield

  • 'Certainly,' replied Traddles; 'but, in the meanwhile, and until everything is done to our satisfaction, we shall maintain possession of these things; and beg you - in short, compel you - to keep to your own room, and hold no communication with anyone.'

    David Copperfield

  • That there is only one choice, his choice, and that he stood ready to "compel" - his word, not mine - people to follow Jesus.

    Archive 2009-08-01

  • That there is only one choice, his choice, and that he stood ready to "compel" - his word, not mine - people to follow Jesus.

    Street-corner Totalitarianism...

  • From the tenor of Obama's recent words about Afghanistan, one would suppose he is doing the best he thinks possible now -- namely, getting out -- but at the speed his domestic opponents compel, that is, more slowly than he knows it would be right to do.

    David Bromwich: One More War, Please

  • From the tenor of Obama's recent words about Afghanistan, one would suppose he is doing the best he thinks possible now -- namely, getting out -- but at the speed his domestic opponents compel, that is, more slowly than he knows it would be right to do.

    David Bromwich: One More War, Please

  • If your poverty of expression compel you to make any distinction between the two, we would certainly recommend your bestowing more admiration on his garden than his wine.

    Sketches by Boz

  • If your poverty of expression compel you to make any distinction between the two, we would certainly recommend your bestowing more admiration on his garden than his wine.

    Sketches by Boz, illustrative of everyday life and every-day people

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