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verb con·strain \kən-ˈstrān\

Simple Definition of constrain

  • : to limit or restrict (something or someone)

  • : to use pressure to force (someone) to do something

Full Definition of constrain

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to force by imposed stricture, restriction, or limitation b :  to restrict the motion of (a mechanical body) to a particular mode

  3. 2 :  compress; also :  to clasp tightly

  4. 3 :  to secure by or as if by bonds :  confine; broadly :  limit

  5. 4 :  to force or produce in an unnatural or strained manner <a constrained smile>

  6. 5 :  to hold back by or as if by force <constraining my mind not to wander from the task — Charles Dickens>

con·strained·ly play \-ˈstrā-nəd-lē, -ˈstrānd-lē\ adverb

Examples of constrain

  1. <constrained by conscience to tell only the truth>

  2. <constrained his anger at the needless interruption>

Origin of constrain

Middle English, from Anglo-French constraindre, from Latin constringere to constrict, constrain, from com- + stringere to draw tight — more at strain

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of constrain

force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield. force is the general term and implies the overcoming of resistance by the exertion of strength, power, or duress <forced to flee for their lives>. compel typically suggests overcoming of resistance or unwillingness by an irresistible force <compelled to admit my mistake>. coerce suggests overcoming resistance or unwillingness by actual or threatened violence or pressure <coerced into signing over the rights>. constrain suggests the effect of a force or circumstance that limits freedom of action or choice <constrained by conscience>. oblige implies the constraint of necessity, law, or duty <felt obliged to go>.

CONSTRAIN Defined for Kids


verb con·strain \kən-ˈstrān\

Definition of constrain


  1. 1 :  compel 1, force <He was constrained to retire because of ill health.>

  2. 2 :  to restrict or limit <She felt the rules constrained her creativity.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up constrain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 12, 2016

of, relating to, or suggestive of marble

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