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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English enforcen, 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 17th c.]
    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      Far from needing to be repealed, the ban on politics in the pulpit ought to be enforced more aggressively.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 15th c.]
    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–18th c.]
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To intensify, make stronger, add force to. [14th–18th c.]
  5. (obsolete, reflexive) To exert oneself, to try hard. [14th–17th c.]
    • 1470–1485 (date produced), Thomas Malory, “(please specify the chapter)”, in [Le Morte Darthur], book VII, [London: [] by William Caxton], published 31 July 1485, OCLC 71490786; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le Morte Darthur [], London: David Nutt, [], 1889, OCLC 890162034:
      I pray you enforce youreselff at that justis that ye may be beste, for my love.
      (please add an English translation of this quote)
  6. (obsolete) To compel, oblige (someone or something); to force. [from 16th c.]
    • 1594 (first publication), Christopher Marlow[e], The Trovblesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edvvard the Second, King of England: [], London: [] [Eliot’s Court Press] for Henry Bell, [], published 1622, OCLC 837836359, (please specify the page):
      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
  8. (obsolete) To put in motion or action by violence; to drive.
  9. (obsolete) To give force to; to strengthen; to invigorate; to urge with energy.
    to enforce arguments or requests
  10. (obsolete) To urge; to ply hard; to lay much stress upon.
  11. (obsolete) To prove; to evince.

Derived terms[edit]


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