Definition of compulsive in English:



  • 1Resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge:

    ‘compulsive eating’
    • ‘What is distinctive about such compulsive behaviour, I would argue, is that the desires and emotions in question are more or less radically independent of the evaluational systems of these agents.’
    • ‘Most people with OCD struggle to banish their unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘Difficult to define exactly, it has become popular to think of almost any behavior that has a compulsive quality as an ‘addiction.’’
    • ‘If not detected and treated early, compulsive gambling might lead to estrangement from family and friends as well as financial and legal difficulties.’
    • ‘I also struggle with compulsive behaviours from time to time.’
    • ‘As treatment progresses, most patients gradually experience less anxiety from the obsessive thoughts and are able to resist the compulsive urges.’
    • ‘Marijuana is addictive because it causes compulsive, uncontrollable drug craving, seeking and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.’
    • ‘By all indications the episodic behavior could become more compulsive and frequent.’
    • ‘Those addicted to drugs suffer from a compulsive drug craving and usage and cannot quit by themselves.’
    • ‘It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.’
    • ‘For example, multiple addictions have been found among more than half of adolescents who have a compulsive behaviour problem.’
    • ‘A child's ability to play is limited by these compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘But motivation coming from a negative source relentlessly generates anxiety and stress, creating compulsive perfectionism.’
    • ‘Most people with OCD struggle to banish their unwanted, obsessive thoughts and to prevent themselves from engaging in compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘Well, compulsive behaviour has been, for decades now, easier to treat psychologically than obsessions.’
    • ‘As you learn to modify your compulsive behaviour, your anxiety levels should lessen.’
    • ‘The child may develop school phobias, compulsive eating or psychosomatic illnesses.’
    • ‘Surveillance - a new and ominous term - became compulsive and almost second nature, even when its use was self-defeating.’
    • ‘Many had kept secret their compulsive eating binges or their ‘purging’ behaviors for years.’
    • ‘Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, and compulsive stealing.’
    obsessive, obsessional, addictive, uncontrollable, out of control, ungovernable
    irresistible, uncontrollable, compelling, driving, overwhelming, overpowering, urgent, besetting
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a person) acting as a result of an irresistible urge:
      ‘a compulsive liar’
      • ‘But some people fear they could be the breeding ground for the compulsive gamblers of the future.’
      • ‘I have no tolerance for compulsive gamblers, this stemming from a personal experience with one.’
      • ‘The compulsive overeater eats whenever and whatever she likes.’
      • ‘However, you may be up against something that you (and other compulsive overeaters) cannot deal with alone.’
      • ‘She became a compulsive reader of plant and seed catalogues, and even spent a month in China collecting seeds and hunting for plants.’
      • ‘For many years he was a compulsive gambler, and a very unsuccessful one at that, and while there is no evidence that his life was overly blighted by the addiction, he did run up fairly substantial debts to several bookmakers in Glasgow.’
      • ‘Black said she has neglected her house and garden, and her children and pets - members are compulsive readers.’
      • ‘Her job at an auctioneer's - one where rich girls fill in time before getting hitched - doesn't pay enough, especially as she is a compulsive consumer.’
      • ‘This is a comic take on the nature of luck and the power of faith from the perspective of a cancer patient and her compulsive gambler husband.’
      • ‘I am a compulsive consumer of gossip magazines and freely admit to an unhealthy fascination with celebrity.’
      • ‘But I think, you know, the combination of a wild stock market with Internet accessibility has turned a lot of people into compulsive gamblers.’
      • ‘At first Swiss police thought the Frenchman, who crossed the border each day to work in restaurants, was a passionate art lover who became a compulsive thief to realise his dream of owning a private art collection.’
      • ‘If she is the sort of compulsive person driven to fix typos and check that the listed URLs are working, this site will keep her busy forever.’
      • ‘Sure enough, he was a liar and a compulsive gambler.’
      • ‘The near limitless play potential makes this game a godsend for obsessive, compulsive fans of this style of play, and the ocean deep gameplay ensures that there is always something new to do.’
      • ‘He became a compulsive traveller, spending a year on the Ivory Coast in 1931 and making many photographs.’
      • ‘My husband is a compulsive hoarder and shopaholic, filling every inch of our six-bedroom house.’
      • ‘A compulsive overeater (binge-eater) is an individual who compulsively eats but does not purge and usually becomes overweight.’
      • ‘You know I can be a very compulsive person, and I have to admit that most of the time I read in the same way that I smoke and chew gum and jiggle my leg a lot.’
      • ‘As a compulsive user of, I think that that competition is precisely the point.’
      inveterate, chronic, incorrigible, incurable, irredeemable, hardened, hopeless, persistent
      View synonyms
  • 2Irresistibly interesting or exciting; compelling:

    ‘this play is compulsive viewing’
    • ‘Third, technology has a compelling, even compulsive, logic of its own.’
    • ‘Aside from their technical prowess, the performance was made compulsive viewing by the showmanship of the boys.’
    • ‘If the national press are anything to go by this is a play that makes for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘It became compulsive viewing on a Sunday evening, resulting in clergymen changing the times of Sunday evening church services.’
    • ‘Ice hockey, downhill skiing, ski jumping and even the speed skating make for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘Rarely have the compositional anxieties of the Scherzo sounded more robust and urgent, or its litany of compulsive surges so compelling.’
    • ‘And while the group's in-house manoeuvring for position made compulsive viewing in itself, the audience had the final say on who went and who stayed.’
    • ‘The guitarist has a thousand yard stare that gives the complete impression of disconnection - it's a compulsive and exciting experience.’
    • ‘This was compulsive viewing, but only because it was incredibly badly made.’
    • ‘I know how hard our staff work and play and it'll make more compulsive viewing than a bunch of wannabe pop stars.’
    • ‘It is an average party album and could happily sit alongside something like Terrorvision, but it fails to provide any compulsive listening or interesting music.’
    • ‘Since I'm trying to deny the horrifying truth that I began to find the series quite compulsive viewing as it neared its conclusion, I shall now heap scorn upon this piece of advertising.’
    • ‘The nail-biting wait for that waft of smoke has become compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘The Republic recovered the pride and drive that fuelled their brave World Cup challenge on a night when Hampden Park rocked to the compulsive beat of a compelling performance.’
    • ‘The opening section of the programme, in which the tiresome threesome rummage through the day's news stories, has fast become compulsive viewing, for all the wrong reasons.’
    • ‘Over the past two Sundays, Williams's disturbing 10-month-long expose of Britain's hooligan underworld has made compulsive viewing on BBC2.’
    • ‘Foregone conclusions don't make for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘This feature has just been added to my stats service, which makes it now not just interesting but compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘War and disasters are indeed fascinating, they make compulsive viewing, especially if you're not in the firing line.’
    • ‘Her snappy asides, unconstrained mix of observational humour and rants on life's irritations make for lucid, compulsive viewing.’
    fascinating, compelling, gripping, riveting, engrossing, totally absorbing, enthralling, captivating, spellbinding, mesmerizing, mesmeric, entrancing
    View synonyms


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘compulsory’): from medieval Latin compulsivus, from compuls- driven, forced, from the verb compellere (see compel). compulsive (originally a term in psychology) dates from the early 20th century.