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On “Force”

Continuing to get my money's worth, today the Oxford English Dictionary and I bring you "force."

Force arrives on the scene in 1300, and has many uses, so I'll give examples only when I think the definition needs some back-up. And please know that force can also mean "to fatten" or "to clip or shear (wool, the beard), and it's also "a name in the north of England for a waterfall or cascade." 

Force, the noun

I. Strength, power.

1.    a. Physical strength, might, or vigour, as an attribute of living beings (occas. of liquor). Rarely in pl. (= F. forces). Obs.

    b. of force: full of strength, vigorous. Obs.

    c. with (one's) force: with energy, with exertion of one's strength. with all one's force: putting forth all one's strength.

    d. to make great force: to exert oneself. to do one's force: to do one's utmost. Obs.

2. a. As an attribute of physical action or movement: Strength, impetus, violence, or intensity of effect. Also with reference to the force of wind described by numbers in the Beaufort scale.

    b. said of the violent onset of combatants in battle. Obs.

1582 N. LICHEFIELD tr. Castanheda's Conq. E. Ind. lxxix. 162 Heere..was all the force of the battaile.

    c. phr. within one's force: within the range of his attack or defence.

1680 OTWAY Orphan I. ii, When on the brink the foaming Boar I met, And in his side thought to have lodg'd my spear, The desperate savage rusht within my Force, And bore me headlong with him down the Rock.

    d. Violence or ‘stress’ of weather. in the force of weather: exposed to the brunt of its attack. Obs.

3. a. Power or might (of a ruler, realm, or the like); esp. military strength or power.

 SHAKES. 3 Hen. VI, V. i. 77 And lo, where George of Clarence sweeps along, Of force enough to bid his brother battle.

      b. In early use, the strength (of a fortress, defensive work, etc.). Subsequently, the fighting strength (of a ship), as measured by number of guns or men. of (good) force: (well) armed or fortified.

 1697 W. DAMPIER Voy. I. iii. 46 Sending from Holland Ships of good force.
        c. with force: with, or by the employment of, military strength or numbers. sometimes app. = in force (see 17). Obs.

 1548 HALL Chron., Hen. VI (an. 6) 106 The Englishemen, whiche with greate force, theim received and manfully defended.

4. concr.    a. A body of armed men, an army. In pl. the troops or soldiers composing the fighting strength of a kingdom or of a commander in the field; also in attrib. use or in the possessive, esp. during the war of 1939-1945.

1945 News Review 10 May, If you're a Forces bride you will be given a travelling warrant for the whole journey from your British home to your new home in America.

        b. A body of police; the whole body of police on service in a town or district; often absol. the force = policemen collectively.

        c. A fort. Obs. rare1.

1538 LELAND Itin. (1711) III. 15 About a Myle by West of Penare is a Force nere the shore.

5. a. Physical strength or power exerted upon an object; esp. the use of physical strength to constrain the action of persons; violence or physical coercion. to make force: to use violence to.

 1687 BOYLE Martyrd. Theodora i. (1703) 6 Such cruel methods being apt to make the world suspect that our best argument is force. 1789 BENTHAM Princ. Legisl. xiii. §2 Force can accomplish many things which would be beyond the reach of cunning.

        b. esp. in phr. by force = by employing violence, by violent means, also under compulsion. Formerly also through, with, of force; also, par force, by perforce, force perforce (see PERFORCE). Also, by or with fine force, a-force fine: see FINE a.3 Often implying the use of armed force or strength of numbers: cf. 3c.

1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) V. 241 The common people..can only be made to sing and step in rhythm by sheer force.

        c. spec. in Law: Unlawful violence offered to persons or things. by force and arms: translation of Law L. vi et armis. a force: a particular act or instance of unlawful violence.

1818 CRUISE Digest (ed. 2) I. 102 Where a person is prevented from barring an estate tail by force and management. 

        d. In non-material sense: Constraint or compulsion exerted upon a person. Also, a force, as to put a force upon: to put compulsion or constraint upon, to constrain; to strain or wrest the meaning of. to be upon the force: ? to act under self-constraint and against one's natural impulses. under a force: under compulsion. Obs.

 1805 K. WHITE Let. 19 Dec., I have very little society and that is quite a force upon my friends.

6. Mental or moral strength. Now only (influenced by sense 2), power of vigorous and effective action, or of overcoming resistance. In early use also, power of endurance or resistance, fortitude.

1876 TREVELYAN Macaulay I. i. 9 There was another Son who in force of character stood out among his brothers.

7. a. Of things (in non-material or moral relations): Power to influence, affect, or control (esp. men in their actions, sentiments, etc.). to have force (to do): to avail.

 1751 JORTIN Serm. (1771) IV. vi. 117 Such prejudices arise from the prevailing force of education.

        b. Peculiar power resident in a thing to produce special effects; virtue, efficacy.

1709 STEELE Tatler No. 34 4 Beauty loses its force, if not accompanied with modesty.

        c. esp. Power to convince or persuade the reason or judgement; convincing or appealing power. Often in phr. of (great, etc.) force; formerly also of force simply.

1849 MACAULAY Hist. Eng. II. 23 They harangued..with some force on the great superiority of a regular army to a militia.

        d. Of discourse, style, artistic creations, etc.: Strength or vividness of effect.

1842 H. ROGERS Introd. Burke's Wks. 85 The passage already full of force and splendour.

        e. Austral. and N.Z. (See quots.)

1933 Press (Christchurch) 21 Oct. 15/7 Force, the power of dogs to move sheep… Huntaways are sometimes spoken of as forcing dogs; but the term f[orce] is also applied to the ability of a heading dog to pull sheep. 1960 BAKER Drum 110 Force, the ability of a sheepdog to control a mob of sheep, esp. without legging, i.e., leg-biting. A good dog is said to have a lot of force.

8. a. Of a law, etc.: Binding power, validity.

9. The real import or significance (of a document, statement, or the like); the precise meaning or ‘value’ (of a word, sentence, etc.) as affecting its context or interpretation; the power or value of a symbol or character.

 1767 BLACKSTONE Comm. II. 353 We are next to consider the force and effect of a fine.

10.    a. (Without article prefixed): A large quantity or number, plenty; const. of, which is omitted in quot. 13.. (cf. F. force gens and the like). most force: the greater part (obs.).       

    b. a force: a lar
ge number or quantity, a great deal. the force: ? the majority. Obs. exc. dial.

 1876 Whitby Gloss., ‘There was a foorce o' folks', great numbers were present.

11. Physics, etc. Used in various senses developed from the older popular uses, and corresponding to mod. scientific uses of L. vis.    a. (=Newton's vis impressa: cf. sense 5). An influence (measurable with regard to its intensity and determinable with regard to its direction) operating on a body so as to produce an alteration or tendency to alteration of its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line; the intensity of such an influence as a measurable quantity. Recent physicists mostly retain the word merely as the name for a measure of change of motion, not as denoting anything objectively existing as a cause.

 1803 J. WOOD Princ. Mech. i. 15 Whatever changes, or tends to change, the state of rest or uniform rectilinear motion of a body, is called force.

        b. (cf. sense 2). Formerly used for what Leibnitz called vis viva, now known as kinetic energy, and often extended to include potential energy: see ENERGY 6. conservation of force: see CONSERVATION.

        c. The cause of any one of the classes of physical phenomena, e.g. of motion, heat, electricity, etc., conceived as consisting in principle or power inherent in, or coexisting with, matter; such principles or powers regarded generically.  According to the now prevailing view that all physical changes are modes of motion, force in its generic sense comes to denote the one principle of which the separate forces are specific forms. But sense 11c is no longer recognized as belonging to the technical language of physics.

    d. transf. and fig. An agency, influence, or source of power likened to a physical force.

Force, the verb

I. To apply force.

1. trans. To use violence to; to violate, ravish (a woman).
 1871 H. KING Ovid's Met. IV. 290 ‘Let Himself’, she cried, ‘Confess, he forced me!’

2. To press hard upon (in battle). Obs.

3. a. To constrain by force (whether physical or moral); to compel; to overcome the resistance of. to force (one's) hand: to compel one to act prematurely or to adopt a policy he dislikes. Cf. Fr. forcer la main à quelqu'un.

 1860 MOTLEY Netherl. (1868) I. viii. 524 Sir Francis..occasionally forced his adversaries' hands.
        b. To put a strained sense upon (words). Also, to force (words) into a sense.
1662 STILLINGFL. Orig. Sacr. III. ii. §2 Without forcing the words of Moses into such a sense.
        c. Card-playing, esp. in Whist.    (a) To compel (a player) to trump a trick, by leading a card of a suit of which he has none;    (b) To make (a player) play so as to show the strength of his hand;    (c) To cause a player to play (a certain card) by leading one which must have the effect of drawing it out.

        d. intr. Austral. and N.Z. Of a sheep-dog: to move sheep.

4. a. To compel, constrain, or oblige (a person, oneself, etc.) to do a thing (sometimes with to omitted); to bring (things), to drive (a person, etc.) to or into (a course of action, a condition).

1845 M. PATTISON Ess. (1889) I. 4 When men are forced into daily and hourly action in matters where they cannot be indifferent spectators

        b. pass. (of a thing) to be forced to be, etc.: to be of necessity. Now colloq. or vulgar.

1691 T. H[ALE] Acc. New Invent. 47 The Rudder-Irons being eaten by the Rust, were forced to be shifted. Ibid. 49 The Lead was forced to be cut away in many places.

        c. ellipt. (= force to believe) To convince. Obs.

1581 SIDNEY Astr. & Stella viii, Forct, by a tedious proofe, that Turkish hardned hart Is not fit marke.

5. a. To urge, compel to violent effort; to exert (one's strength) to the utmost. spec. in Cricket. To force the pace or the running (in a race): to adopt, and thus force one's competitors to adopt, a rate of speed likely to harass them and improve one's own chance of winning. to force the bidding: at a sale by auction, to run the price up rapidly. to force one's voice: to attempt notes beyond the natural compass. to force the game in Cricket: Of a batsman: To run some risks in order to increase the rate of scoring, and so give one's side a better chance of winning a game.

        b. refl. and intr. To do one's utmost endeavour, strive. Obs.

 SPENSER Sheph. Cal. Apr. 24 Forcing with gyfts to winne his wanton heart.

6. To overpower by force.    a. To make a forcible entry into; to take by force, to storm (a stronghold); to board (a ship). Also, To effect a passage through (mountains, a river, an enemy's lines) by force.

        b. To break open (a gate, etc.); to break (a lock); to pierce (armour). Also to force open.

        c. To compel to give way or yield; to overpower (troops, a guard). Obs.

7. a. To drive by force, propel against resistance, impel. Chiefly const. with prep., or with advbs.

 1700 S. L. tr. Fryke's Voy. E. Ind. 298 Those that delight in Hunting, may find great quantities of Beasts forced up into the Mountains at that time.
        b. to force down: to compel (an aircraft) to land.

8. a. intr. To make one's way by force. Also with in, out, up. Now rare.

        b. Real Tennis. To use the force stroke (see prec. 15b).

9. trans.    a. To press, put, or impose (something) forcibly on, upon (a person), and simply. Also, to force (a person) on, upon (something): to oblige to resort to.

1903 R. LANGBRIDGE Flame & Flood xxiv, Her lack of money had forced her back upon the most respectable costume which she had.

        b. To lay stress upon, press home, urge. Obs. Also, To enforce (a law, etc.).

        c. In Conjuring with cards (see quot. 1888).   

1880 BROWNING Dram. Idylls Ser. II. Clive 116 You forced a card and cheated! 1888 KUNARD Card Tricks 13 To force a card..consists in making a person select from a pack any particular card you desire him to take, while he imagines he is taking one quite at haphazard. Ibid. 14 To force, you must never be in a hurry..Four cards from the same pack were forced upon him.

10. To bring about, effect, or produce by force or effort; to bring about of necessity, or as a necessary result. Also, to force a passage, one's way. lit. and fig.

c1802 C. JAMES Milit. Dict., To force a passage, to oblige your enemy to retire..and thus open a way into the country which he had occupied.

11. To obtain or take by force; to win by violence; to draw forth (lit. and fig.) as a necessary consequence; to extort, elicit. Also, to force away, out.

 1845 M. PATTISON Ess. (1889) I. 14 A moral power..forcing from them a sort of recognition of its claims.

12. To hasten by artificial means the maturity of (plants, fruit, etc.). Also intr. for refl.

13.    a. To give force or strength to; to strengthen, reinforce; also, to fortify, garrison (a place), to man (fortifications). Obs.

 1794 W. HUTCHINSON Hist. Durham III. 175 The ground..appears to have been forced, and is trenched round.

        b. To fine (wine) by a short process. Obs.

1839 HARTLEY Wine & Spirit Merchants' Comp. 44 Fine or force this wine with the whites and shells of ten eggs.

Wow, at least there was a payoff with that last one if you got this far!

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Yes… I think you did get your money's worth on this one…

    I had forgotten about "force" as referenced in #12… "forcing" a bulb or bud to bloom – nothing "violent" in that at all.

    I suppose that when it is said: "an opinion is being forced", in this context "Power to influence, affect, or control" is correct. And the #9 definition "the power or value of a symbol or character" (as in an axiomatic truth) would also apply to "forcing one's opinion", if one were speaking the truth.

    The "power to convince or persuade the reason or judgement; convincing or appealing power", when used in the context of "forcing one's opinion"… the "force" or power being "logic" – one can "force" their views on another.

    Many use "force" to mean something terribly negative (and physical) but it's really not (just) that at all. When a moral absolute is at issue: "4. a. To compel, constrain, or oblige (a person, oneself, etc.) to do a thing (sometimes with to omitted); to bring (things), to drive (a person, etc.) to or into (a course of action, a condition)" then opposition would be correct in saying "forcing" one's views… And so, we have end game.

    Thanks Mary 🙂

    February 27, 2009

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