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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.
    • 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, chapter 14, in Sky Island:
      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 termsEdit

Related termsEdit


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.