1. The capacity to do work or cause physical change; energy, strength, or active power: the force of an explosion.
a. Power made operative against resistance; exertion: use force in driving a nail.
b. The use of physical power or violence to compel or restrain: a confession obtained by force.
a. Intellectual power or vigor, especially as conveyed in writing or speech.
b. Moral strength.
c. A capacity for affecting the mind or behavior; efficacy: the force of logical argumentation.
d. One that possesses such capacity: the forces of evil.
a. A body of persons or other resources organized or available for a certain purpose: a large labor force.
b. A person or group capable of influential action: a retired senator who is still a force in national politics.
a. Military strength.
b. A unit of a nation's military personnel, especially one deployed into combat: Our armed forces have at last engaged the enemy.
a. A vector quantity that tends to produce an acceleration of a body in the direction of its application. Newton's second law of motion states that a free body accelerates in the direction of the applied force and that its acceleration is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to its mass.
b. See fundamental force.
7. Baseball A force play.
tr.v. forced, forc·ing, forc·esIdioms:
1. To compel through pressure or necessity: I forced myself to practice daily. He was forced to take a second job.
a. To gain by the use of force or coercion: force a confession.
b. To move or effect against resistance or inertia: forced my foot into the shoe.
c. To inflict or impose relentlessly: He forced his ideas upon the group.
a. To put undue strain on: She forced her voice despite being hoarse.
b. To increase or accelerate (a pace, for example) to the maximum.
c. To produce with effort and against one's will: force a laugh in spite of pain.
d. To use (language) with obvious lack of ease and naturalness.
a. To move, open, or clear by force: forced our way through the crowd.
b. To break down or open by force: force a lock.
5. To rape.
6. To induce change in (a complex system) by changing one of its parameters: greenhouse gases that force the earth's climate.
7. Botany To cause to grow or mature by artificially accelerating normal processes.
a. To put (a runner) out on a force play.
b. To allow (a run) to be scored by walking a batter when the bases are loaded.
9. Games To cause an opponent to play (a particular card).
force (oneself) on/upon
force (someone's) hand
To force to act or speak prematurely or unwillingly.
1. In full strength; in large numbers: Demonstrators were out in force.
2. In effect; operative: a rule that is no longer in force.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin fortia, from neuter pl. of Latin fortis, strong; see bhergh-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: force, compel, coerce, oblige, obligate
These verbs mean to cause one to follow a prescribed or dictated course against one's will. Force, the most general, usually implies the exertion of physical power or the operation of circumstances that permit no options: The driver was forced from his car at gunpoint. A downturn in the market forced us to sell. Compel has a similar range but applies especially to the exertion of legal or moral authority: The official was compelled to testify under the committee's subpoena power. I felt compelled by my conscience to return the money. Coerce implies the application of pressure or threats in securing compliance: "The technology exists to reduce or eliminate these emissions, but industry will not apply it unless coerced" (Andrew Weil).
Oblige implies the operation of authority, necessity, or moral or ethical considerations: "Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do" (Mark Twain).
Obligate applies when compliance is enforced by a legal contract or by the dictates of one's conscience or sense of propriety: I am obligated to repay the loan. See Also Synonyms at strength.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.