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From Middle English compellen, borrowed 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"), from Old English fordrīfan. 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 (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  2. (transitive) To overpower; to subdue.
    • 1917, Upton Sinclair, chapter 16, in King Coal:
      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, scene 1,
      Against my will, / As Pompey was, am I compell’d to set / Upon one battle all our liberties.
    • 1827, Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England
      Wolsey [] compelled the people to pay up the whole subsidy at once.
  4. (transitive) To exact, extort, (make) produce by force.
  5. (obsolete) To force to yield; to overpower; to subjugate.
  6. (obsolete) To gather or unite in a crowd or company.
  7. (obsolete) To call forth; to summon.

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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.