con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
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 How to pronounce constrainedly (audio) , -​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

States like New York are seeking to find the sources of the Sackler fortune, hoping to reclaim portions of it, particularly in the event that a Purdue bankruptcy could constrain payouts to litigants. Danny Hakim, New York Times, "New York Uncovers $1 Billion in Sackler Family Wire Transfers," 13 Sep. 2019 Being listed only in South Africa had limited Naspers’ pool of accessible capital and its dominance on the local stock exchange also constrained local investment managers. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "Africa’s most valuable company has just created the biggest internet company in Europe," 11 Sep. 2019 SFO Airport Stories But SFO is unusually constrained; any expansion of its runways would require filling in the bay, and a plan to do so faltered against strong environmental opposition in 2001. Mallory Moench,, "‘A massive mess’: SFO runway construction delays mount despite reduced flights," 9 Sep. 2019 Poor implementation can constrain environmental benefits. Wired, "The Red Lights Stopping Yellow School Buses from Going Green," 4 Sep. 2019 Brewers have zeroed in on six-pack-ring packaging partly because most consumers can recall the haunting image of a seagull, turtle, or some other aquatic creature constrained or killed by the plastic rings. John Kell, Fortune, "Beermakers Are Experimenting With New—and Sustainable—Six-Pack Designs," 2 Sep. 2019 After an ambitious century, this current behind-the-scenes wrangling over climate risk and a possible grand bargain shows how rising temperatures and changing water levels increasingly constrain human use of the Colorado River. Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, "West wrestles with Colorado River “grand bargain” as changing climate depletes water governed by 1922 compact," 25 Aug. 2019 The testimony was given during the last day of the trial that McConnell has kept strictly focused and constrained to 15 hours of testimony each from the plaintiffs and the defense. Nicholas Rondinone,, "In testimony to judge, Nathan Carman says he called out to his mother as the Chicken Pox was sinking," 23 Aug. 2019 The role of white women — long key players in dictating and constraining the reproductive choices of others — is too often discounted and overlooked, experts say. NBC News, "It's not just men: White conservative women have played key role in abortion policy changes this year," 13 Aug. 2019

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

19 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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


con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
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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Comments on constrain

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


to spread over or through

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