Meaning of “force” in the English Dictionary

"force" in British English

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forcenoun

uk /fɔːs/ us /fɔːrs/

force noun (PHYSICAL)

B2 [ U ] physical, especially violent, strength, or power:

The force of the wind had brought down a great many trees in the area.
She slapped his face with unexpected force.
Teachers aren't allowed to use force in the classroom.
The police were able to control the crowd by sheer force of numbers (= because there were more police than there were people in the crowd).
in force

in large numbers:

Photographers were out in force at the White House today

[ C or U ] specialized in scientific use, (a measure of) the influence that changes movement:

the force of gravity
combine/join forces

C2 to work with someone else in order to achieve something that you both want

More examples

  • In the end she used brute force to push him out.
  • The rocket has to work against the force of gravity.
  • The police were out in force at the football match.
  • The acceleration of a body equals the force exerted on it divided by its mass.
  • The force of the waves was eroding the cliff face.

force noun (INFLUENCE)

C2 [ C or U ] (a person or thing with a lot of) influence and energy:

He was a powerful force in politics.
Fishermen are always at the mercy of the forces of nature (= bad weather conditions).
a force to be reckoned with

C2 If an organization or a person is described as a force to be reckoned with, it means that they are powerful and have a lot of influence:

The United Nations is now a force to be reckoned with.
force of habit

If you do something out of force of habit, you do it without thinking because you have done it so many times before.

More examples

  • Ambition can sometimes be a force for good.
  • Since the government limited their powers, the unions are no longer a force to be reckoned with.
  • In Britain and the USA in the 1970s, the underground was a powerful subversive force.
  • The club used to be a significant force in European football.
  • It seems as though forces of destruction are increasingly at work throughout society.

force noun (GROUP)

B2 [ C ] a group of people organized and trained, especially for a particular purpose:

the security forces
the work force
He joined the police force right after graduating.
the forces [ plural ]

the military organizations for air, land, and sea

More examples

  • In their efforts to reduce crime the government expanded the police force.
  • Security forces halted the demonstrators by blocking the road.
  • The reduction in armed forces will be phased over the next ten years.
  • Government troops swept aside the rebel forces.
  • 60 percent of the work force voted for strike action.

force noun (IN OPERATION)

in/into force

More examples

  • Many of these problems may simply fade into irrelevance when the new rules come into force.
  • The new law comes into force at the end of the month.
  • Speed restrictions are in force along this stretch of the railway line.
  • The ban on handguns came into force last year.
  • A curfew has been in force since the riots in August.

C2 (of laws, rules, or systems) existing and being used:

New driving regulations are going to come into force this year.

forceverb [ T ]

uk /fɔːs/ us /fɔːrs/

force verb [ T ] (GIVE NO CHOICE)

B2 to make something happen or make someone do something difficult, unpleasant, or unusual, especially by threatening or not offering the possibility of choice:

[ + to infinitive ] I really have to force myself to be nice to him.
[ + to infinitive ] You can't force her to make a decision.
Hospitals are being forced to close departments because of lack of money.
You could tell he was having to force back the tears (= stop himself from crying).
I didn't actually want any more dessert, but Julia forced it on me (= made me accept it).
I couldn't stay at their flat - I'd feel as if I was forcing myself on them (= making them allow me to stay).
You never tell me how you're feeling - I have to force it out of you (= make you tell me)!

specialized biology, food & drink If plants or vegetables are forced, they are made to grow faster by artificially controlling growing conditions such as the amount of heat and light:

force a laugh/smile

to manage, with difficulty, to laugh or smile:

I managed to force a smile as they were leaving.
force an/the issue

to take action to make certain that an urgent problem or matter is dealt with now:

If the management wouldn't listen to their demands, they would have to force the issue by striking.

More examples

  • The new tax would force companies to adopt energy-saving measures.
  • Hospitals are being forced to close departments because of lack of money.
  • The recession is forcing the company to rationalize.
  • Doctors are being forced to work impossibly long hours.
  • It's only a matter of time before he's forced to resign.

force verb [ T ] (USE PHYSICAL POWER)

C2 to use physical strength or effort to make something move or open:

Move your leg up gently when you're doing this exercise, but don't force it.
If you force the zip, it'll break.
She forced her way through the crowd.

to break a lock, door, window, etc. in order to allow someone to get in:

I forgot my key, so I had to force a window.
[ + adj ] The police had forced open the door because nobody had answered.
The burglar forced an entry (= broke a window, door, etc. to get into the house).

More examples

  • The crowd managed to force its way in by sheer weight of numbers.
  • The thieves forced one of the shop windows open with a crowbar.
  • Helmeted, baton-wielding police forced back the crowd.
  • Pieces of stone can be split off by forcing wedges between the layers.
  • The water pressure forces the piston into the chamber.

Idiom(s)

(Definition of “force” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"force" in American English

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forcenoun

us /fɔrs, foʊrs/

force noun (PHYSICAL POWER)

[ C/U ] physical, often violent, strength or power:

[ U ] The force of the wind knocked down many trees during the hurricane.
[ U ] She had to use force to get the old window open.

physics [ C/U ] A force is a power that causes an object to move or that changes movement.

force noun (INFLUENCE)

[ C/U ] strong influence and energy, or a person with strong influence and energy:

[ U ] The sheer force of her words kept the audience glued to their seats.
[ C ] He was a powerful force in national politics for 30 years.

force noun (POWER TO CONTROL)

[ C/U ] power to make someone do something, or to make something happen, esp. without offering the possibility of choice:

social forces at school

force noun (MILITARY)

[ C ] an organized and trained military group:

the armed forces
the Air Force
UN forces continue to provide relief in the war-torn region.

[ C ] Force is also military strength.

force noun (GROUP)

[ C ] a group of people who do the same job:

a sales force
the police force

[ C ] If a person or group joins or combines forces with another person or group, they agree to work together.

forceverb [ T ]

us /fɔrs, foʊrs/

force verb [ T ] (USE PHYSICAL POWER)

to use physical strength or effort to make something move or open:

If the piece won’t fit in the hole, don’t force it.
He forced his way through the crowd to reach the exit.

To force a lock, door, window, etc., is to break it in order to get in:

I forgot my house key, so I had to force a window.

force verb [ T ] (MAKE DO UNWILLINGLY)

to make someone do something, or make something happen, esp. by threatening or not offering the possibility of choice:

I hate string beans, so I had to force myself to eat them.
[ + to infinitive ] Anderson was forced to leave the game with a bruised knee.
I didn’t actually want any more dessert, but Julia forced it on me.
If callers have information about the crime and would like to give their names that is fine, but we’re not going to force the issue (= make them give their names).

(Definition of “force” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"force" in Business English

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forcenoun

uk /fɔːs/ us

[ C, usually singular ] a person or thing with a lot of influence, power, or energy:

a dominant/major/powerful force The takeover will create a powerful new force in Britain's food retail industry.
commercial/competitive/economic forces Potent commercial forces are bringing the hydrogen economy along faster than anyone thought possible.
a force for change/good The movement of work to developing economies must be a force for good.

[ C ] a group of people organized and trained for a particular purpose:

The company soon had a sales force distributed across Europe.

[ U ] the influence or authority of something:

They made sure the minister felt the full force of business resentment at the government's new workplace laws.
It was not until the summer that the advertising campaign gained force.
These building codes do not have the force of law.
in force

if laws, rules, or systems are in force, they are being used:

The notice lists the import duties and taxes currently in force.
a force to be reckoned with

a powerful person or organization with a lot of influence:

The company is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with on the global telecom scene.
combine/join forces

to work with someone in order to achieve something you both want:

The two companies, one Dutch the other French, have just joined forces to exploit the European market for petfood.
come into/enter into force

when laws, rules, or systems come into force, they start being used:

The final stage of measures to improve access to work for disabled employees comes into force tomorrow.

forceverb [ T ]

uk /fɔːs/ us

to make a person or an organization do something that they do not want to do:

force sb/sth to do sth The arrival of the new supermarket has forced local businesses to raise their wages to compete.
force sb/sth into sth Heavy law school debt frequently forces graduates into high-paying jobs at private firms, where intense deadlines and grinding hours are routine.
force sb/sth into doing sth Customers are being forced into banking by phone or over the internet.

to make something happen, especially something that people do not want to happen:

The economic slowdown has forced a second week of temporary closure.
The government threatened to force an agreement between banks and retailers for a new system.
force sb's hand

to make someone do something they do not want to do or do something sooner than they had intended:

The changing dynamics of the diamond business are beginning to force the company's hand.

(Definition of “force” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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