Definition of compulsion in US English:



  • 1The action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint.

    ‘the payment was made under compulsion’
    • ‘He is prepared to contemplate compulsion in pension saving.’
    • ‘All this compulsion will achieve is to force people to actively abstain or face a fine.’
    • ‘Only a few do not compromise their principles under any compulsion.’
    • ‘If at all they had called her, it had been under compulsion from either the film directors or the producers.’
    • ‘There are two plausible reasons why voter turnout is down, neither of which would be ‘cured’ by compulsion.’
    • ‘But whether you are going to do it by compulsion of circumstances or by conviction has to be decided.’
    • ‘Penman said she was in favour of increasing awareness of the importance of languages, but concerned about the removal of compulsion.’
    • ‘Parliament has since amended the law, in the light of that judgment, to make evidence obtained under compulsion inadmissible.’
    • ‘An alternative is for the government to bring in some sort of compulsion for workers and/or employers to pay into a pension scheme.’
    • ‘The property is not seized, but has to be handed over under compulsion, with refusal generally constituting contempt.’
    • ‘On the one hand, if it can be established that money is paid over by duress or compulsion, it is recoverable.’
    • ‘Some predict that, at that point, the government will be forced to introduce an element of compulsion.’
    • ‘A number of unions are also in favour of employer compulsion.’
    • ‘Despite the lack of legal compulsion, many companies already ban smoking.’
    • ‘Unless individuals of all ages save now without compulsion, even the minimum income guarantee may not be available when the time comes.’
    • ‘If a person has acted under compulsion he is not considered an apostate, his wife is not divorced and his lands are not forfeited.’
    • ‘The government has moved away from compulsion towards economic incentives for couples who have only one child and fines for those who have more.’
    • ‘The state's only function is as an apparatus of coercion and compulsion.’
    • ‘Voting should be simple, especially in a country that uses compulsion to make people attend polling places.’
    • ‘We were pretty much promised there would be no compulsion and we would not be forced to save.’
    obligation, constraint, force, coercion, duress, pressure, pressurization, enforcement, oppression, intimidation
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  • 2An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes.

    ‘he felt a compulsion to babble on about what had happened’
    • ‘It seems to me that toward the end of things, I develop this compulsion to become more thorough.’
    • ‘That quirk also gave him repetition compulsions and an obsession about praying.’
    • ‘In addition, obsessions and compulsions related to food are common.’
    • ‘I'm thinking, too, of the person whose weird little compulsions drive him and his relations almost mad with frustration.’
    • ‘They understood your compulsions and thought that if nothing else they can at least cry on your shoulder.’
    • ‘They can sometimes recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are unrealistic.’
    • ‘The value of the SSRIs to treat the obsessions and compulsions associated with TS remains to be resolved.’
    • ‘Behavioral therapy can be used to lessen unwanted compulsions.’
    • ‘One thing that may intensify this focus is the vast resources on the Internet available to feed or fuel other addictions or compulsions.’
    • ‘I don't really have any weird compulsions, though.’
    • ‘Assessments were made using the BDI, and clinician rated obsessions and compulsions for each individual patient.’
    • ‘So the melodramatic passions, the obsessions and the compulsions, seemed to arrive by ambush, like a sucker punch.’
    • ‘Our real problem is not that we have addictions or compulsions.’
    • ‘Here, Ross explores David's compulsion to overwork and the way his humiliating loss of earnings and status impacts on the family.’
    • ‘He has obsessive thoughts but no compulsions, though he would do anything for the ring.’
    • ‘Other times, compulsions might seem less clearly related to the obsessive thought.’
    • ‘One person may be plagued by private rituals or compulsions or repetitive thoughts of which no one else is aware.’
    • ‘We left the cinema with three irresistible compulsions.’
    • ‘This consists of recurring obsessions or compulsions.’
    • ‘Rachel's obsessive compulsions are the symptoms of a depressed woman struggling to gain some control over herself and her world.’
    urge, impulse, need, necessity, desire, longing, motivation, drive
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Late Middle English: via Old French from late Latin compulsio(n-), from compellere ‘to drive, force’ (see compel).