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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.


  • IPA(key): /kəmˈpɛl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛl
  • Hyphenation: com‧pel


compel ‎(third-person singular simple present compels, present participle compelling, simple past and past participle compelled)

  1. (transitive, archaic, literally) To drive together, round up
  2. (transitive) To overpower; to subdue.
    • 1917, Upton Sinclair, King Coal, ch. 16,
      She had one of those perfect faces, which irresistibly compel the soul of a man.
  3. (transitive) To force, constrain or coerce.
    Logic compels the wise, while fools feel compelled by emotions.
    • 1600, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 5, sc. 1,
      Against my will, / As Pompey was, am I compell’d to set / Upon one battle all our liberties.
    • Hallam
      Wolsey [] compelled the people to pay up the whole subsidy at once.
  4. (transitive) To exact, extort, (make) produce by force.
    • Shakespeare
      Commissions, which compel from each / The sixth part of his substance.
    • 1912, L. Frank Baum, Sky Island, ch. 14,
      The Queen has nothing but the power to execute the laws, to adjust grievances and to compel order.
  5. (obsolete) To force to yield; to overpower; to subjugate.
    • Dryden
      Easy sleep their weary limbs compelled.
    • Tennyson
      I compel all creatures to my will.
  6. (obsolete) To gather or unite in a crowd or company.
    • Dryden
      in one troop compelled
  7. (obsolete) To call forth; to summon.
    • Spenser
      She had this knight from far compelled.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chapman to this entry?)

Derived terms[edit]


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