1 : a net for catching birds or fish
2 : something impeding activity, progress, or freedom : restraint -- usually used in plural
"I cast the miserable trammels of worldly discretion to the winds, and spoke with the fervour that filled me…." -- From Wilkie Collins' 1868 novel The Moonstone
"Those details remind us that we're at a modern play, one in which the author rejects the trammels of a genre that, to be honest, are extremely familiar." -- From a theater review by Judith Newmark in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 2011
Did You Know?
A trammel fishing net traditionally has three layers, with the middle one finer-meshed and slack so that fish passing through the first net carry some of the center net through the coarser third net and are trapped. Appropriately, "trammel" traces back to the Late Latin "tremaculum," which comes from Latin "tres," meaning "three," and "macula," meaning "mesh." Today, "trammels" is synonymous with "restraints," and "trammel" is also used as a verb meaning "to confine" or "to enmesh." You may also run across the adjective "untrammeled," meaning "not confined or limited."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What 1-syllable descendant of "tres" can refer to the side of a die or domino that has three spots or to a playing card with the number 3 or a symbol repeated three times on it? The answer is ...