Is there a good word for describing "a request that cannot be refused"? For example, the context I'm thinking about is a situation where your boss "requests" that you work overtime one day, but it's pretty clear that it's a request that can't be refused (or, at the very least, it's something you believe you can't say no to).

I guess we could say "irrefusable"? But I'm not sure if that's even the right word, and I'm wondering if anyone can think of a better word for this.

  • 1
    Have you looked up 'irrefusable'? Jun 8, 2018 at 10:35

6 Answers 6


Well, "irrefusable" means "impossible to refuse" (the Merriam-Webster Dictionary). And it's possible to refuse a request (the Oxford Collocation Dictionary). So, technically, if it's impossible for you to refuse a request, the request is irrefusable.

It can also be called an I-won't-take-no-for-an-answer kind of request.

  • thanks, i think you're right that irrefusable probably is the best choice for this Jun 13, 2018 at 8:28

Your boss compels you to work overtime, a request that can't be refused if you hope to keep your job.


  1. To force (a person) to do something; drive or constrain:
  2. To necessitate or require, as by force of circumstance; demand:
  3. To exert a strong, irresistible force on; sway:

I would say it's a request that you are (or feel) obliged to fulfill.

to constrain by physical, moral, or legal force or by the exigencies of circumstance · obliged to find a job · felt obliged to share it with her

Her job obliges her to work overtime and on weekends.

  • How about "a Godfather request", from the famous line in the Godfather movie, "...make him an offer he can't refuse".
    – tautophile
    Jun 9, 2018 at 6:18

I would call that a peremptory request.

Oxford's Learner's Dictionary:

peremptory adj

(especially of somebody’s manner or behaviour) expecting to be obeyed immediately and without questioning or refusing

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Putting scare quotes around "voluntary" may work in some contexts.

noun [ plural ]

Quotation marks (= the symbols “ ” or ‘ ’ ) that are sometimes put around a word or phrase in a written sentence in order to show that the word is being used in a special way or in a way that may not be correct or true.

For example:

Following the prank, Nigel was invited to a "voluntary" meeting with Human Resources.

  • 1
    Along this vein, the term "voluntold" has been steadily gaining popularity, though it's definitely slang/informal.
    – garnerstan
    2 days ago

Among the lists of synonyms for 'compulsory / obligatory' and related words, the only one I've found that I'd consider anywhere near suitable for [the giving of] 'not-quite-a-direct' order is


which CED defines rather amusingly as

the use of force to persuade someone to do something that they are unwilling to do

(the juxtaposition of 'force' and 'persuade' seems very odd).

RHK Webster's gives the senses (for the verb; the noun's definition is derived)

coerce v.t.

  1. to compel by force or intimidation: to coerce someone into signing a document.

  2. to bring about through force; exact: to coerce obedience.

  3. to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.

while Collins has

coerce vb (tr)

to compel or restrain by force or authority without regard to individual wishes or desires

So, picking among the definitions, '[referring to an authority] to control, even compel, by exploiting fear of repercussions that could be taken by the authority' is one valid sense.

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