• Force


    • RP IPA: /fɔːs/
    • GenAm IPA: /fɔɹs, foəɹs/
    • Rhymes: -ɔː(r)s

    Origin 1

    From Middle English force, fors, forse, from Old French force, from Late Latin fortia, from neuter plural of Latin fortis ("strong").

    Full definition of force



    (countable and uncountable; plural forces)
    1. Strength or energy of body or mind; active power; vigour; might; capacity of exercising an influence or producing an effect.the force of an appeal, an argument, or a contract
      • MacaulayHe was, in the full force of the words, a good man.
    2. Power exerted against will or consent; compulsory power; violence; coercion.
      • William Shakespeare, ''Henry VI, part II"which now they hold by force, and not by right
    3. (countable) Anything that is able to make a big change in a person or thing.
    4. (countable, physics) A physical quantity that denotes ability to push, pull, twist or accelerate a body which is measured in a unit dimensioned in mass × distance/time² (ML/T²): SI: newton (N); CGS: dyne (dyn)
    5. Something or anything that has the power to produce an effect upon something else.
      • 2012-03, Henry Petroski, Opening Doors, A doorknob of whatever roundish shape is effectively a continuum of levers, with the axis of the latching mechanism—known as the spindle—being the fulcrum about which the turning takes place. Applying a force tangential to the knob is essentially equivalent to applying one perpendicular to a radial line defining the lever.
    6. (countable) A group that aims to attack, control, or constrain.
      • William Shakespeare, CymbelineIs Lucius general of the forces?
      • 2004, April 15, , Morning swoop in hunt for Jodi's killer, For Lothian and Borders Police, the early-morning raid had come at the end one of biggest investigations carried out by the force, which had originally presented a dossier of evidence on the murder of Jodi Jones to the Edinburgh procurator-fiscal, William Gallagher, on 25 November last year.
    7. police force
    8. (ability to attack, control, or constrain)(uncountable) The ability to attack, control, or constrain.show of force
    9. (countable) A magic trick in which the outcome is known to the magician beforehand, especially one involving the apparent free choice of a card by another person.
    10. (legal) Legal validity.The law will come into force in January.
    11. (legal) Either unlawful violence, as in a "forced entry", or lawful compulsion.

    Usage notes

    Adjectives often applied to "force": military, cultural, economic, gravitational, electric, magnetic, strong, weak, positive, negative, attractive, repulsive, good, evil, dark, physical, muscular, spiritual, intellectual, mental, emotional, rotational, tremendous, huge.


    1. (transitive) To violate (a woman); to rape. from 14th c.
      • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, Book V:He hath murthered that mylde withoute ony mercy – he forced hir by fylth of hymself, and so aftir slytte hir unto the navyll.
      • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.1:a young woman not farre from mee had headlong cast her selfe out of a high window, with intent to kill herselfe, only to avoid the ravishment of a rascally-base souldier that lay in her house, who offered to force her ....
    2. (obsolete, reflexive, intransitive) To exert oneself, to do one's utmost. from 14th c.
    3. (transitive) To compel (someone or something) to do something. from 15th c.
      • 1910, Emerson Hough, The Purchase Price Chapter 1, Captain Edward Carlisle...felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met her steady gaze,...; he could not tell what this prisoner might do. He cursed the fate which had assigned such a duty, cursed especially that fate which forced a gallant soldier to meet so superb a woman as this under handicap so hard.
      • 2011, Tim Webb & Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 23 Mar 2011:Housebuilders had warned that the higher costs involved would have forced them to build fewer homes and priced many homebuyers out of the market.
    4. (transitive) To constrain by force; to overcome the limitations or resistance of. from 16th c.
      • 1603, John Florio, trans. Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I.40:Shall wee force the general law of nature, which in all living creatures under heaven is seene to tremble at paine?
    5. (transitive) To drive (something) by force, to propel (generally + prepositional phrase or adverb). from 16th c.
      • John Dryden (1631-1700)It stuck so fast, so deeply buried lay
        That scarce the victor forced the steel away.
      • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)to force the tyrant from his seat by war
      • John Webster (c.1580-c.1634)Ethelbert ordered that none should be forced into religion.
      • 2007, The Guardian, 4 Nov 2007:In a groundbreaking move, the Pentagon is compensating servicemen seriously hurt when an American tank convoy forced them off the road.
    6. (transitive) To cause to occur (despite inertia, resistance etc.); to produce through force. from 16th c.
      The comedian's jokes weren't funny, but I forced a laugh now and then.
      • 2009, "All things to Althingi", The Economist, 23 Jul 2009:The second problem is the economy, the shocking state of which has forced the decision to apply to the EU.
    7. (transitive) To forcibly open (a door, lock etc.). from 17th c.
      To force a lock.
    8. To obtain or win by strength; to take by violence or struggle; specifically, to capture by assault; to storm, as a fortress.
    9. (transitive, baseball) To create an out by touching a base in advance of a runner who has no base to return to while in possession of a ball which has already touched the ground.
      Jones forced the runner at second by stepping on the bag.
    10. (whist) To compel (an adversary or partner) to trump a trick by leading a suit that he/she does not hold.
    11. (archaic) To put in force; to cause to be executed; to make binding; to enforce.
    12. (archaic) To provide with forces; to reinforce; to strengthen by soldiers; to man; to garrison.
    13. (obsolete) To allow the force of; to value; to care for.

    Origin 2

    From Old Norse fors ("waterfall"). Cognate with Swedish fors ("waterfall")



    (plural forces)
    1. (countable, Northern England) A waterfall or cascade.
      • T. Grayto see the falls or force of the river Kent

    Origin 3

    See farce ("to stuff").


    1. To stuff; to lard; to farce.
      • ShakespeareWit larded with malice, and malice forced with wit.
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