1580s, "obligatory, arising from compulsion, done under compulsion," from Medieval Latin compulsorius, from Latin compulsus, past participle of compellere "to drive together, force," from com "with, together" (see com-) + pellere "to drive" (from PIE root *pel- (5) "to thrust, strike, drive"). As "coercive, exercising compulsion" from 1630s. As a noun from 1510s, originally "a compulsory means." Related: Compulsories; compulsorily; compulsoriness.
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