con·​strain | \kən-ˈstrān \
constrained; constraining; constrains

Definition of constrain 

transitive verb

1a : to force by imposed stricture, restriction, or limitation Teenagers often feel constrained by rules. an artist constrained by a client's requirements

b : to restrict the motion of (a mechanical body) to a particular mode

2 : compress also : to clasp tightly

3 : to secure by or as if by bonds : confine constrained to a dungeon broadly : limit

4 : to force or produce in an unnatural or strained manner a constrained smile

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

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Other Words from constrain

constrainedly \kən-​ˈstrā-​nəd-​lē, -​ˈstrānd-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of constrain in a Sentence

constrained by conscience to tell only the truth constrained his anger at the needless interruption

Recent Examples on the Web

With the yuan tumbling and China’s property market frothy, the central bank’s scope for major policy easing that might support banks if the downturn worsens is constrained. Andrew Peaple, WSJ, "Chinese Banks Can’t Escape the Country’s Gloom for Long," 31 Oct. 2018 What’s more, GE’s oilfield offerings were still limited compared to its rivals, constraining growth in the event of a recovery. Rick Clough,, "GE Exits Health, Oil as CEO Shrinks Onetime Titan to Save It," 26 June 2018 Just over 500 days into his presidency, Mr Trump is up to his ears in foreign-policy controversy and showing no signs of being constrained. The Economist, "Donald Trump is undermining the rules-based international order," 7 June 2018 The second approach is to constrain the array elements accessed so that, for example, any attempt to speculatively access an element that doesn't exist is always directed at the first element of the array. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "New Spectre-like attack uses speculative execution to overflow buffers," 10 July 2018 By forcing the hand of its trade partners, the Trump administration has shifted the exchange onto a field where there are few rules to constrain state behavior. Krzysztof J. Pelc, Washington Post, "The U.S. broke a huge global trade taboo. Here’s why Trump’s move might be legal.," 7 June 2018 In his words and actions, Trump has shown little patience for unwritten norms and customs that have acted to constrain the authority of his office over the last two centuries. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump's above-the-law presidency," 4 June 2018 But any other potential clashes between the candidates were constrained by the no-rebuttal format. Michael Dresser,, "Pot, polls and pizza: Maryland Democratic candidates for governor end debate on high note," 14 June 2018 The atmosphere around the North leader was constrained. Matthew Pennington, The Seattle Times, "Tough talk: US envoys on how to negotiate with North Korea," 9 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'constrain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of constrain

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for constrain

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

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Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for constrain

The first known use of constrain was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for constrain



English Language Learners Definition of constrain

: to limit or restrict (something or someone)

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


con·​strain | \kən-ˈstrān \
constrained; constraining

Kids Definition of constrain

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

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

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