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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 compulsively
  • They are slacker and more anecdotal, and their rhythms drive forward less compulsively.
  • He was sparing both with budgets and with film, and compulsively private.
  • At his home they had already seen him compulsively realign silverware on his dining table and milk cartons in his refrigerator.
  • They act compulsively of boredom, and engage in self-harm to offset fear and apathy.
  • It is a compulsively proprietary and controlling organization.
  • compulsively cerebral and self-absorbed, he searches for release in the ordinary and the unexamined.
  • As it goes along, the film compulsively cross-cuts among the characters, rarely allowing a scene to build.
  • And with the newly fattened draft, he would start rewriting compulsively.
  • Hey, if you're going to buy something compulsively, soap is definitely a good way to go.
  • But painting implodes when it focuses too compulsively on the self's innermost feelings.
British Dictionary definitions for compulsively


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 compulsively



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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compulsively 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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