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Alternative forms[edit]


From Old French enforcier, from Late Latin infortiāre, from in- + fortis (strong).



enforce (third-person singular simple present enforces, present participle enforcing, simple past and past participle enforced)

  1. To keep up, impose or bring into effect something, not necessarily by force. [from 17thc.]
    The police are there to enforce the law.
    • 1929, Chiang Kai-shek, quoted in “Nationalist Notes,” Time, 11 February, 1929,[1]
      Our task is only half finished. It will be my duty to enforce the decisions of the conference and I hereby pledge myself to that end.
    • 2013, “The pulpit should be free of politics,” Los Angeles Times, 8 September, 2013,[2]
      Far from needing to be repealed, the ban on politics in the pulpit ought to be enforced more aggressively.
  2. To give strength or force to; to affirm, to emphasize. [from 15thc.]
    The victim was able to enforce his evidence against the alleged perpetrator.
  3. (obsolete, transitive) To strengthen (a castle, town etc.) with extra troops, fortifications etc. [14th-18thc.]
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To intensify, make stronger, add force to. [14th-18thc.]
  5. (obsolete, reflexive) To exert oneself, to try hard. [14th-17thc.]
  6. (obsolete) To compel, oblige (someone or something); to force. [from 16thc.]
    • 1594, Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, London: William Jones,[3]
      Sweete prince I come, these these thy amorous lines,
      Might haue enforst me to haue swum from France,
      And like Leander gaspt vpon the sande,
      So thou wouldst smile and take me in thy armes.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition I, section 2, member 4, subsection iv:
      Uladislaus the Second, King of Poland, and Peter Dunnius, Earl of Shrine [] had been hunting late, and were enforced to lodge in a poor cottage.
    • 1899, E. OE. Somerville and Martin Ross, Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., Great Uncle McCarthy:
      In a few minutes I was stealthily groping my way down my own staircase, with a box of matches in my hand, enforced by scientific curiosity, but none the less armed with a stick.
  7. (obsolete) To make or gain by force; to force.
    to enforce a passage
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, London: William Ponsonbie, Book 1, Canto 8, p. 106,[4]
      Ne shame he thought to shonne so hideous might,
      The ydle stroke, enforcing furious way,
      Missing the marke of his misaymed sight
      Did fall to ground []
  8. (obsolete) To put in motion or action by violence; to drive.
    • c. 1589, William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene 7,[5]
      If they’ll do neither, we will come to them,
      And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
      Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
  9. (obsolete) To give force to; to strengthen; to invigorate; to urge with energy.
    to enforce arguments or requests
    • 1796, Edmund Burke, Two Letters Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament: on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France, London: F. & C. Rivington, Letter I, p. 60,[6]
      [] the eloquence of the declaration, not contradicting, but enforcing sentiments of the truest humanity, has left stings that have penetrated more than skin-deep into my mind []
  10. (obsolete) To urge; to ply hard; to lay much stress upon.
    • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act III, Scene 2,[7]
      In this point charge him home, that he affects
      Tyrannical power: if he evade us there,
      Enforce him with his envy to the people,
      And that the spoil got on the Antiates
      Was ne’er distributed.
  11. (obsolete) To prove; to evince.
    • 1604, Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, London, Preface, p. 9,[8]
      But what argument are ye able to shew, whereby it was euer prooued by Caluin, that any one sentence of Scripture doth necessarily enforce these things, or the rest wherein your opinion concurreth with his against the orders of your owne Church?

Derived terms[edit]


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