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From Middle French compulsion, from Late Latin compulsiō, from Latin compellere (to compel, coerce); see compel.


  • enPR: kəm-pŭl'shən


compulsion (plural compulsions)

  1. An irrational need to perform some action, often despite negative consequences.
    • 2013 June 7, David Simpson, “Fantasy of navigation”, The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 36: 
      It is tempting to speculate about the incentives or compulsions that might explain why anyone would take to the skies in [the] basket [of a balloon]: perhaps out of a desire to escape the gravity of this world or to get a preview of the next; […].
    During the basketball game, I had a sudden compulsion to have a smoke.
  2. The use of authority, influence, or other power to force (compel) a person or persons to act.
  3. The lawful use of violence (i.e. by the administration).

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