Let's say you have a secret. You've promised not to tell, but there's something forcing you to call a friend and spill the beans. This force is compulsion, that urge to do something even though you know you shouldn't.

If you go back to the Latin, you find compulsus, the past participle of the verb compellere, "to compel." You can see the connection with our word compulsion, which means "something compelling." The word gained a more psychological meaning in 1909 in a translation of Freud’s studies, suggesting a type of neurosis that impels a person to do things in an obsessive manner.

Definitions of compulsion
  1. noun
    using force to cause something to occur
    “though pressed into rugby under compulsion I began to enjoy the game”
    synonyms: coercion
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    constructive eviction, eviction
    action by a landlord that compels a tenant to leave the premises (as by rendering the premises unfit for occupancy); no physical expulsion or legal process is involved
    type of:
    causation, causing
    the act of causing something to happen
  2. noun
    an irrational motive for performing trivial or repetitive actions, even against your will
    “her compulsion to wash her hands repeatedly”
    synonyms: obsession
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    obsession with a particular word which the person uses repeatedly or which intrudes into consciousness
    type of:
    irrational motive
    a motivation that is inconsistent with reason or logic
  3. noun
    an urge to do or say something that might be better left undone or unsaid
    “he felt a compulsion to babble on about the accident”
    synonyms: irresistible impulse
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    type of:
    irrational impulse
    a strong spontaneous and irrational motivation
Word Family

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