Legal Dictionary


Definition of compel


    From Middle English compellen, from Middle French compellir, from Latin compellere, itself from com- 'together' + pellere 'to drive'



to 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

    Sheep dogs masterly compell the herd.

  2. (transitive) To overpower; to subdue

    * 1917, Upton Sinclair, King Coal, ch. 16,
    She had one of those perfect faces, which irresistibly compel the soul of a man.

  3. (transitive) To force, constrain or coerce

    Logic compells the wise, fools feel compelled by emotions instead

    * 1600, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 5, sc. 1,

    Against my will, / As Pompey was, am I compell'd to set / Upon one battle all our liberties.

  4. (transitive) To exact, extort, (make) produce by force

    * 1912, L. Frank Baum, Sky Island, ch. 14,
    The Queen has nothing but the power to execute the laws, to adjust grievances and to compel order.

Further reading

To compel one to present information to a jury is done by order of a judge. If a judge believes the individual has information relevant to the cause, he can "force" that person to present that information or be subject to arrest for contempt of court.


In the United States, the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that defendants cannot be compelled in criminal proceedings against themselves.

In Australia, the Criminal Procedure Act establishes a similar protection for defendants, and also for their spouses and immediate family.

Compel also means to lure to do something.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     salacious
2.     prima facie
3.     landed property
4.     lex situs
5.     lex fori
6.     respondent
7.     charge
8.     beyond reasonable doubt
9.     lex causae
10.     entitlement