Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To force, drive, or constrain: Duty compelled the soldiers to volunteer for the mission.
  • transitive v. To necessitate or pressure by force; exact: An energy crisis compels fuel conservation. See Synonyms at force.
  • transitive v. To exert a strong, irresistible force on; sway: "The land, in a certain, very real way, compels the minds of the people” ( Barry Lopez).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

  • v. force somebody to do something
  • v. necessitate or exact

Etymologies

Middle English compellen, from Latin compellere : com-, com- + pellere, to drive; see pel-5 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Nor will there ever be an administration in Washington ready to do diplomatically what none has ever dared do since 1947, namely compel Israel to make an equitable peace with the Arabs.

    Signs of the Times

  • compelling: does the idea compel you to explore it further?

    WIWSWTMWISO: Ideas Into Stories

  • Stewart was able to "compel" Yoo to testify in the court of public opinion because Yoo needed the Daily Show to help sell his new book.

    Will Bunch: When Your Nation's Only Accountability Is a Late-Night Comedian

  • Spokesman: Pentagon could "compel" WikiLeaks to stop releasing documents.

    Washington Names Al Qaeda In Pakistan Top Terror Threat

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