Epithelial cells undergo striking morphological changes during division to ensure proper segregation of genetic and cytoplasmic materials. These morphological changes occur despite dividing cells being mechanically restricted by neighboring cells, indicating the need for extracellular force generation. Beyond driving cell division itself, forces associated with division have been implicated in tissue-scale processes, including development, tissue growth, migration, and epidermal stratification. While forces generated by mitotic rounding are well understood, forces generated after rounding remain unknown. Here, we identify two distinct stages of division force generation that follow rounding: (1) Protrusive forces along the division axis that drive division elongation, and (2) outward forces that facilitate postdivision spreading. Cytokinetic ring contraction of the dividing cell, but not activity of neighboring cells, generates extracellular forces that propel division elongation and contribute to chromosome segregation. Forces from division elongation are observed in epithelia across many model organisms. Thus, division elongation forces represent a universal mechanism that powers cell division in confining epithelia.

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