Definition of compel in English:



  • 1with object and infinitive Force or oblige (someone) to do something.

    ‘a sense of duty compelled Harry to answer her questions’
    • ‘Sometimes the scope of our expanding requirements and resource constraints may compel us to select a provider of services other than the military, even though we have assumed a greater risk by doing so.’
    • ‘Yet his insecurity stems from an over-riding sense of decency that compels him to do the right thing and act honestly, even when the world around him consistently does the opposite.’
    • ‘One cannot bear to see a person in pain or starving, so his sense of sympathy compels him to help that person.’
    • ‘To all those who complain that we are compelled by sinister forces on the high street to buy gifts for people that they do not need and do not want I say: tell me who they are.’
    • ‘A public-works agency can compel you to sell your land.’
    • ‘Liz suddenly felt a strange force compelling her to return to bed.’
    • ‘First they demanded we agree there was no serious or imminent danger compelling us to withdraw our labour.’
    • ‘They can exercise a subtle, unseen influence, somewhat like a magnetic field or centripetal force, compelling us inexorably back on ourselves.’
    • ‘My paper was so badly reviewed that I was compelled to withdraw the paper.’
    • ‘Duty and honor compel him to return to face his foe despite the vehement protestations of Amy, a Quaker.’
    • ‘If you do not have a work permit or residency then when your passbook comes up for renewal it is being said that the banks are refusing to issue a new one, thereby compelling you to withdraw your funds.’
    • ‘After I left the parking lot of the store, something compelled me to drive around.’
    • ‘One can only hope that his ego gets the best of his common sense this off-season, compelling him to exercise his free agent rights and sign with another team.’
    • ‘A sense of natural justice compels me to speak out in defense of mimes who cannot speak for themselves.’
    • ‘He could leave for Philadelphia with his new bride as planned, but duty compels him to stay and meet his fate.’
    • ‘The realization of these facts definitely plants within him a deep sense of accountability that compels him to lead a responsible life in this world.’
    • ‘For a split second, I thought about ignoring the call, but something compelled me to answer.’
    • ‘Having a privatization agency compels you, or those who run the institution, to privatize because that is their business.’
    • ‘Davis was compelled to answer questions about Knight's comportment and coaching methods.’
    • ‘Blood binds us, duty compels us to serve the Throne, to give up our lives if need be to protect those upon the Throne and those destined by fate to ascend to it when the time comes.’
    force, coerce into, pressurize into, pressure, impel, drive, press, push, urge, prevail on
    exact, extort, demand, insist on, enforce, force, necessitate
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object Bring about (something) by the use of force or pressure.
      ‘they may compel a witness's attendance at court by issue of a summons’
      ‘his striking appearance compelled attention’
      • ‘Turning points bring an individual to a junction that compels decision and commitment and the turning may be sharp.’
      • ‘He set a further court hearing for May 31 to rule on defense requests to compel interviews with witnesses who decline to speak to them voluntarily.’
      • ‘The high horizon line flattens the canvas, compelling attention to the strong asymmetrical design.’
      • ‘Crucially he or she will have statutory powers to both summon witnesses and compel evidence.’
      • ‘The third and final issue surrounds the proper application of military power, whether and when it is appropriate to use military force or the threat of force to compel peace.’
      • ‘Further, while the Inquiry did not have powers to compel discovery or witnesses, it does not appear that the Inquiry was refused access to any document or that any witness refused to attend.’
      • ‘However, it will have no power to compel testimony, or to bring prosecutions.’
      • ‘That is, there is no such thing as a law, administrative ruling, edict, decree, or government order of any kind that is not backed by the threat to use physical force to compel obedience to it.’
      • ‘Instead of seeking to broaden its appeal to urban elites or local strongmen, the GMD sought unsuccessfully to compel their submission by force.’
      • ‘Her purpose may be unclear but she has an instinctive playwright's gift for grabbing your attention and compelling sympathy for damaged people.’
      • ‘With authority gone, the result would be not liberty but increasing dependence on naked force to compel obedience and maintain order.’
      • ‘However, the key difference is that he is aware that this force of necessity compels action, and has an idea of the grander purpose or design behind these events.’
      • ‘I did not, and I would rephrase the question: Should the international community use force to compel the two-state solution?’
      • ‘The following subsections give powers to the person appointed to hold the inquiry to compel the attendance of witnesses, obtain the production of documents, take evidence on oath and so forth.’
      • ‘Her performance compels your attention every moment she is on screen.’
      • ‘On two occasions the applicant was forced to bring motions to compel payment.’
      • ‘The defendant brought a motion to compel the attendance of the plaintiff at an examination for discovery.’
      • ‘Recalling that the reason to use military force is to compel compliance with demands, the implications for a dominant indicator are significant.’
      • ‘A government is an association of men and women authorized by society and the constitution to use force to compel obedience.’
      • ‘As one of the most aggressively positioned building sites of Europe, Berlin urges, even compels different ways of looking.’
    2. 1.2literary with object and adverbial of direction Force to come or go in a particular direction.
      ‘by heav'n's high will compell'd from shore to shore’


Late Middle English: from Latin compellere, from com- ‘together’ + pellere ‘drive’.