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[kuh m-puhl-siv] /kəmˈpʌl sɪv/
compelling; compulsory.
  1. pertaining to, characterized by, or involving compulsion:
    a compulsive desire to cry.
  2. governed by an obsessive need to conform, be scrupulous, etc., coupled with an inability to express positive emotions.
Psychology. a person whose behavior is governed by a compulsion.
Origin of compulsive
1595-1605; obsolete compulse v. (< Latin compuls(us), past participle of compellere; see compulsion) + -ive
Related forms
compulsively, adverb
compulsiveness, compulsivity
[kuh m-puhl-siv-i-tee, kom-puhl-] /kəm pʌlˈsɪv ɪ ti, ˌkɒm pʌl-/ (Show IPA),
noncompulsive, adjective
noncompulsively, adverb
quasi-compulsive, adjective
quasi-compulsively, adverb
uncompulsive, adjective
uncompulsively, adverb
Can be confused
compulsive, impulsive, impetuous (see synonym study at impetuous) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for compulsive
  • But he is actually a workaholic with an obsessive-compulsive streak.
  • These bully narcissists also seem to fit the criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • Being too controlling and a bit obsessive-compulsive.
  • Although it shares features of obsessive compulsive disorder, pathological gambling is likely a different condition.
  • The serious wackos, the obsessive-compulsive absurdists, may be beyond therapy.
  • Unfortunately, this compulsive truth-telling is all but incompatible with winning high office in a free and open election.
  • They may become compulsive and have trouble controlling their actions.
  • The rate of compulsive gambling among college students is roughly double that of the general population.
  • If you carry those variants, you are more likely to be more risk-taking, novelty-seeking and compulsive.
  • Don't impose your compulsive self focus into the face of other readers.
British Dictionary definitions for compulsive


relating to or involving compulsion
(psychiatry) an individual who is subject to a psychological compulsion
Derived Forms
compulsively, adverb
compulsiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for compulsive

c.1600, from French compulsif, from Latin compulsus, past participle of compellere (see compel). Psychological sense is from 1902. As a noun, attested from 1630s; psychological sense from 1957. Related: Compulsively; compulsiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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compulsive in Medicine

compulsive com·pul·sive (kəm-pŭl'sĭv)
Caused or conditioned by compulsion or obsession. n.
A person with behavior patterns governed by a compulsion.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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