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From Middle English compellen, borrowed from Middle French , from Latin , itself from (“together”) + (“to drive”). Displaced native Middle English fordriven («to drive out, to lead to, to compel, to force»), from Old English . More at .


compel (third-person singular simple present , present participle , simple past and past participle )

  1. (, , ) To drive together, round up (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  2. () 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. () 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. () To exact, extort, (make) produce by force.

    • 1613, William Shakespeare; , “The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed Blount, published 1623, OCLC , :

      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. () To force to yield; to overpower; to subjugate.

    • 1697, “(please specify the book number)”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis.…, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson,…, OCLC :

      Easy sleep their weary limbs compell’d.
    • ?, Alfred Tennyson, Geraint and Enid

      I compel all creatures to my will.
  6. ()

    1700, Dryden, “Palamon and Arcite: Or, The Knight’s Tale. In Three Books.”, in Fables Ancient and Modern; , London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, , OCLC 228732415:
    in one troop compell’d

    To gather or unite in a crowd or company.

  7. ()

    (Can we date this quote by Spenser and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
    She had this knight from far compelled.

    To call forth; to summon.

    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chapman to this entry?)


drive together, round up

  • Bulgarian:  (bg) (sǎbiram)
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: please add this translation if you can
  • Dutch: bijeendrijven (nl), samendrijven (nl)
  • Finnish: ,  (fi)
  • Russian:  (ru) (sobirátʹ)


  • Armenian:  (hy) (entʿarkel)
  • Bulgarian: подчинявам (bg) (podčinjavam)
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: please add this translation if you can
  • Czech:  pf, podrobovat impf
  • Dutch:  (nl)
  • Finnish:  (fi)
  • German:  (de)
  • Russian:  (ru) (podčinjatʹ)

force, constrain or coerce

  • Arabic: ‎ (ʾakraha)
  • Armenian:  (hy) (stipel),  (hy) (harkadrel)
  • Bulgarian:  (bg) (prinuždavam), заставям (bg) (zastavjam)
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: please add this translation if you can
  • Czech:  (cs)
  • Dutch:  (nl)
  • Esperanto:
  • Finnish:  (fi),  (fi)
  • Galician: apremar (gl)
  • German:  (de),  (de)
  • Gothic: (), ()
  • Greek:  (el) (anagkázo),  (el) (ypochreóno)
    Ancient: (anankázō)
  • Italian:  (it),  (it),  (it)
  • Korean:  (ko) (gang-yohada)
  • Latin:
  • Maori: , uruhi
  • Mongolian:  (mn) (albadah)
  • Norwegian:
  • Old Norse:
  • Polish:  (pl) impf,  (pl) pf
  • Portuguese:  (pt),  (pt)
  • Russian:  (ru) impf (zastavljátʹ),  (ru) pf (zastávitʹ),  (ru) impf (prinuždátʹ),  (ru) pf (prinúditʹ)
  • Spanish:  (es),  (es),  (es)
  • Swedish:  (sv)

exact by force

  • Armenian: պարտադրել (hy) (partadrel)
  • Bulgarian:  (bg) (prinuždavam), насилвам (bg) (nasilvam)
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: please add this translation if you can
  • Czech:  (cs) pf, přinucovat impf,  pf, vynucovat impf
  • Dutch:  (nl)
  • Finnish:  (fi),  (fi)
  • French:  (fr)
  • German:  (de)
  • Maori: uruhi
  • Russian:  (ru) impf (objázyvatʹ),  (ru) impf (vynuždátʹ),  (ru) pf (objazátʹ),  (ru) pf (výnuditʹ)
  • Spanish:  (es),  (es),  (es)
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 .

Translations to be checked

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