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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Coerce \Co*erce"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Coerced; p. pr. & vb. n. Coercing.] [L. co["e]rcere; co- + arcere to shut up, to press together. See Ark.] 1. To restrain by force, especially by law or authority; to repress; to curb. --Burke. [1913 Webster] Punishments are manifold, that they may coerce this profligate sort. --Ayliffe. [1913 Webster] 2. To compel or constrain to any action; as, to coerce a man to vote for a certain candidate. [1913 Webster] 3. To compel or enforce; as, to coerce obedience. Syn: To Coerce, Compel. Usage: To compel denotes to urge on by force which cannot be resisted. The term aplies equally to physical and moral force; as, compelled by hunger; compelled adverse circumstances; compelled by parental affection. Coerce had at first only the negative sense of checking or restraining by force; as, to coerce a bad man by punishments or a prisoner with fetters. It has now gained a positive sense., viz., that of driving a person into the performance of some act which is required of him by another; as, to coerce a man to sign a contract; to coerce obedience. In this sense (which is now the prevailing one), coerce differs but little from compel, and yet there is a distinction between them. Coercion is usually acomplished by indirect means, as threats and intimidation, physical force being more rarely employed in coercing. [1913 Webster]